Ray Gennawey, a Laguna Niguel resident for 37 years, was only 9 when he spoke before city hall for the very first time.
“I asked the city council to install lights so that the little leaguers can play baseball at night, and we can get more games in and more playtime ... And we got the lights,” he said.
Gennawey, who is running for a seat on the Laguna Niguel City Council in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, is an Orange County Deputy District Attorney in its Gang Unit and has prosecuted cases involving domestic violence, human trafficking, murder, and sexual assault.
His experience in the legal field and law enforcement has led him to focus on public safety during his campaign.
He said though Laguna Niguel ranked the sixth safest city in California this year—according to SafeWise, an independent security system review site—crime cannot be neglected.
“In a state where crime is rising in every city, we are not immune from that rising crime,” he said. “Last year [in the city], drug violations have more than doubled, and DUIs are significantly up.”
If elected, he said strengthening the city’s neighborhood watch program—in which community members take responsibility for keeping an eye on each other’s property—will be the first thing he’d tackle.
“I think the number one way to stop crime is to report it,” he said.
He praised current city leaders for rejecting the “Defund the Police” movement, which began in 2020 nationwide after the death of George Floyd, and said he will continue to support the police and sheriff’s deputies, if elected.
Gennawey also said ensuring the county is gang-free life is equally important.
He said he is currently leading a group of law enforcement officials in a gang reduction program where they teach fifth-grade students who live in Orange County neighborhoods controlled by criminal street gangs about the danger of gangs and drugs.
“[Kids] are typically pressured to join a criminal gang between ages 11 and 13,” he said. “We’re trying to catch these kids around that age, right before they get exposed to the gang culture.”
In the program, students watch videos that show the consequences of youths committing crimes as gang members and being sentenced to juvenile hall.
“You don’t get to wear your own clothes. You don’t get to have mom’s cooking. You’re wearing somebody else’s underwear and jumpsuits. It’s not a fun one,” he said.
He said that as a prosecutor, he’s witnessed the transformation of some incarcerated youths, which has brought him great joy.
“We see kids graduating from a lifestyle of bad choices, or to becoming one of the top students in their class,” he said.
Gennawey also said he wants to make sure the cost of living will not become a burden for Laguna Niguel residents.
“I’m against new taxes, and I pledge to deliver a balanced budget every year and to help the government live within its means,” he said.
He also said he wants to gain feedback from the community on the potential repurposing of the Ziggurat Building, a large pyramid building owned by the federal government in the heart of the city, which is under consideration to be potentially sold to a developer.
However, the city has zoning authority to determine the use of the property and he said he’d like community input on the issue.
Gennawey is also an active member of St. Timothy’s Catholic Church’s branch of the Knights of Columbus, a charitable organization that helps people worldwide in need.
“It’s a great outlet for men of faith to put their faith into action,” he said.
Gennawey said he remembers the day in 1989 when Laguna Niguel became a city. He was just 3.
“I’ve been a Laguna Niguelian since day one,” he said. “Running for city council is very natural for me because I know our town better than any other candidate, and our town knows me better than any other candidate.”
Campaign finance disclosure documents from last year through Sept. 19, 2022, show Gennawey has raised over $60,000 for his campaign and has made a $3,000 personal loan to the effort.