A native of Los Angeles, Gloria Molina grew up in the Pico Rivera area and is the eldest of ten children. She graduated from El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera and attended East Los Angeles and Rio Hondo Colleges. During the 1970s, Molina became involved in the Chicano movement as a women’s health advocate. She is credited with starting the “Nurse Mentoring Program” in partnership with local community colleges to help alleviate the County’s nursing shortage as well as to provide an opportunity for hundreds of individuals to become skilled employees. She worked with the private sector so that hundreds of schoolchildren could receive eyeglasses that they otherwise could not afford through the “Gift of Sight” project. Molina went on to serve in the Carter White House as a deputy for presidential personnel. After leaving the White House, she served in San Francisco as a deputy director for the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
In 1982, Molina was elected to the California Assembly representing the 56th District. In 1987 she was elected to Los Angeles City Council for the First District. In 1991, in a special election, she was elected to the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to represent the First District, and was re-elected in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010. Her major accomplishments as County Supervisor include championing parkland/open space development in the inner cities (i.e., the Los Angeles River Center, El Bosque de Rio Hondo, and the Los Angeles Bikeway Plan), and continuing to support capital improvement projects at neighborhood parks in her district. Molina led efforts to end the County practice of pension spiking, reined in medical malpractice liability costs, and eliminated numerous perks, bonuses, and transportation allowances for highly paid bureaucrats. She also advocated for the closing of massage parlors acting as fronts for prostitution, cracked down on illegal pharmacies selling dangerous over-the-counter drugs without a prescription, and worked to remove unsightly graffiti and illegal billboards. Molina also instituted landmark legislation that restricts the proliferation of adult businesses in the unincorporated areas, and she created the County’s Nuisance and Bar Abatement Team, resulting in liquor-license revocations and the subsequent closures of fourteen problematic bars, nightclubs, and markets. Molina was instrumental in acquiring a $1 billion federal commitment from President Clinton in 1995 to rescue the County’s public health care system. She retired from the Board of supervisors in December 2014.
Gloria Molina was the first Latina to be elected to the California Legislature, the Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She was one of four vice chairs of the Democratic National Committee through 2004. Timemagazine named her as one of the Democratic Party’s “10 Rising Stars” in 1996. The White House Project, a non-profit and non-partisan group dedicated to raising awareness of women’s leadership in American politics, named Molina one of fifteen top women leaders nationwide as a possible vice-presidential candidate for the 2000 presidential election.