In a year’s time, Nikki Perez is set to become Burbank’s youngest mayor ever.
In 2022, Perez made history for securing the all-time highest vote-count on record in her run for City Council. Last month, the 29-year-old did it again when she took the title of Burbank’s youngest-ever vice mayor. She felt immensely honored by the Burbank public, she told the Leader.
On the evening she was appointed to the position, dozens of residents attended the meeting to make public comments, with the overwhelming majority endorsing Perez for vice mayor.
“I was extremely honored by what it meant to all those people who called in and spoke up,” Perez said, adding that the thought of it gave her goosebumps. “Our residents were saying that they wanted to see their first LGBTQ+, indigenous vice mayor.”
Perez was born and raised in Burbank by parents who immigrated to the city from El Salvador and Guatemala. A product of the Burbank Unified School District, her parents were quintessential Burbank.
Her mother worked for the school district, while her father was a teamster who drove for the studios. Perez recalled making delivery trips to and from Burbank studios and production lots alongside her dad.
“I grew up fixated on the industry. It’s when I really started to see the arteries of Burbank as a hub for the media industry,” she said.
A Burroughs alum, Perez has no problem cheering for the Bears whenever the opportunity arises. She went on to receive a dual bachelor’s in psychology and music performance from UC Riverside and a master’s of social welfare from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Having spent her early career in Sacramento working as a staffer for the state Assembly, Perez now works full-time as a program manager to provide homeless families shelter for the nonprofit New Economics for Women.
And while she says her work in the capital and her career in social work constantly inform her decisions on the Council, Perez told the Leader that, most of the time, she’s simply drawing from her experiences as a Burbank resident.
“Though I do lean on my social work experience, when I think about it, I most often fall on the experiences of being a resident and a student here my whole life. That has really informed a lot of the work I’m doing on Council,” she said.
Since being elected to the dais, Perez has been a champion for housing, homeless services and strengthening the local economy.
“From the point of view of our average residents, most people just really want to be able to live, to work and to play in Burbank, so that’s what my priorities are. I want my very first priority to be continuing our efforts of alleviating the housing crisis. We have a commitment to build 12,000 units by 2035,” said Perez, adding that she’s also aiming for tenant protections in 2024.
Perez went on to discuss the importance of film production and media to the Burbank economy.
“This year, it’s important that we talk to [the studios] to ask what we can do to make sure that Burbank is a media capital of the world today, but also the media capital of the world tomorrow,” she said.
Perez also advocated for local quality of life improvements for residents like building a new dog park or bringing back the popular Burbank on Parade event, which was discontinued in 2017.
When she’s not at her day job or in meetings at City Hall, you can find Perez around town on a long distance run with her dog or enjoying a cup of coffee in Magnolia Park.
During her time on Council, it’s become her catch phrase: “Let’s grab a cup of coffee.” She makes the offer to anyone willing to talk shop with the goal of improving Burbank.
“If there’s anything I want for this year, next year and the rest of my career in government, it’s that I want to be someone who folks feel they can grab a cup of coffee with, who they can reach out to, who they can talk to like a normal human,” Perez said.
“I think the vice mayorship title is wonderful, but I do prefer when most folks call me Nikki.”
First published in the January 13 print issue of the Burbank Leader.