When Jimmy Delshad was sworn in as the mayor of Beverly Hills, he became the first Iranian-American mayor in the city of Beverly Hills. Delshad says he wants to use his position to act as a bridge between Iranian-Americans and the rest of the American society. He grew up in Shiraz Iran and at 19 he migrated to the U S to further his education. After several years working at a major computer and sound electronics company, Delshad formed his own computer memory company. Eventually, he became an elder statesman to thousands of Iranians–mostly Jews –who fled Iran as the Shah’s regime toppled in the late 1970s. He also rose through the ranks at the Westside’s Sinai Temple to become president. In 2003 he reached out to Beverly Hills’ growing Iranian population to stage an upset election victory and take his place as the first Iranian on the Beverly Hills City Council. To the average person Jimmy Delshad is just one more wealthy man in Beverly Hills making news. Nobody knows that his journey to America began with $100 in his pocket in 1959.
The Immigrant Magazine sat with the Mayor for this very inspiring interview that revealed how a teenage immigrant of Iranian Jewish minority became Mayor of one of the most prestigious cities in the world.
Why did you come to the U.S.A?
I grew up in a country where we faced discrimination daily and my mother stressed the value of a good education as a platform for success. At age 18 it wasn’t easy to get into university in Iran. I learned that in America there are better opportunities for everyone and so my parents decided that it was best to send us out here. Unfortunately we could not all come as a family because there were quotas that made it difficult to get visas especially for Jews. At age 19, I came to the U.S. and attended Mankato University in Minnesota, which was part of the University of Minnesota system. I however never thought that I would still be here. My only plan was to go to school and return to Iran.
That did not happen, as I became an asset to my employer who decided to help in regularizing my immigration status and keeping me employed. I later went on to become the international speaker for computer storage and eventually created my own company.
How did you start your own business?
After I graduated from Northridge in 1965, I went to work for Ampex Corp., a big sound and electronics company. I developed a product that extended the life of a computer by adding memory. After working for several companies I later decided to start my own company from my second bedroom called American International, which focused on add-on memory products for tape players and disc, drives.
It was very challenging but if you believe in yourself and you have a passion the only other ingredient you need is persistence.
How did you start your political career?
I never set out to go into politics. However my wife Lonnie was very much involved in community and together we participated through volunteering in many organizations. As time went by, members of my community encouraged me to get more involved with bigger endeavors that made me realize that to serve better I needed to step up into some kind of office where I could really have impact in effecting change in people’s lives. I have served in various capacities at Sinai Temple including being the President where bridging the differences between the Persian members of the temple and the rest of the members became my priority. My activities led people into believing in me and I was approached by many to run for something bigger for the city of Beverly Hills. It was not about money but service.It is very important to participate in the political decisions that ultimately affect you. I have tried in the past to encourage my fellow Iranian compatriots to get involved. I have positioned myself as the bridge, educating new immigrants about the value system and the importance of integrating within the communities beyond your own ethnicity.
What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Like every other immigrant I faced hard times. I worked as a janitor and did many jobs to survive. As a student, language was a challenge and I overcame this by taking engineering courses that did not require too much language. I faced a lot of difficulty but I believe that obstacles make you a better person. You should never look at the obstacle but keep your eye on the goal. If you allow challenge to control you, you’ll never get to your destination. I always try to see how I can turn an obstacle into a benefit. This becomes a springboard to accomplish something bigger.
What has been your source of inspiration?
When I was a child something happened to me that transformed me. I was a minority in my class and greatly discriminated upon. I then decided that I would be the best at everything that I set out to do. If someone tells me that I can’t do something, that is enough to make me want to do it and be the best at it. I am very driven by challenge and the desire to do something. My primary source of inspiration is my family .
I give a lot of credit to my wife of 38 years Lonnie who has supported me through every venture I have taken. I am grateful for her love and support. I am also very grateful to my mother who taught me the value of good and higher education and the pursuit of big dreams.
What do you think is very important when making changes in your life?
When making changes in your life you have to have passion for what you want to do and the next and most valuable ingredient you need is persistence. Passion alone is not enough. You must be prepared to do things over and over again until you make it. That is the power of persistence.
What is next? Governor, or maybe the white house?
I love to give service and I also love challenge. Something has to challenge me and I also need to have a desire for it. Once these two ingredients are met of course I will be going for it. In the meantime I am happy to be serving my community as mayor.