Club’s 95th historic annual luncheon highlights Club succession and success

The Club held its 95th annual luncheon Jan. 23 at the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles. The luncheon was the first to be led fully by Robert Larios, the newly promoted President and CEO of both the Los Angeles City Employees Association parent company and its subsidiary, the Employees Club of California.

“It gives me immense pleasure to stand before you today,” Robert Larios said. “We are gathered here to celebrate, honor and acknowledge the incredible public service employees who, day in and day out, serve our wonderful state with dedication and commitment.

“Today, we’re stepping into a new era of Club Service – an era marked by fast, flexible scheduling, and an unwavering responsiveness to your needs. All of these changes are driven by our desire to create a more enriching and enjoyable experience for each and every one of you.”

Club’s 95th historic annual luncheon highlights

CEO Robert Larios and Chief Operating Officer Summy Lam handled the hosting duties. Robert and Summy acknowledged Club business partners and vendors in the room before highlighting three who were awarded with annual honors (see below).

For the first time, the annual luncheon began with a prayer of invocation and ended with a closing benediction. They were performed by Officer Don Jenkins, South Traffic, of the LAPD’s Chaplain Corps unit.

The luncheon featured a lively speech by Club Founder and outgoing Association CEO John Hawkins, who brought down the house when he displayed his brand-new “Club Universe” T-shirt. “There are no limits!” he said. According to the Association’s corporate succession plan, John is now Club Founder and Education and Training Officer.

The Association’s official annual meeting – the swearing-in of the Club board – was held virtually in mid-December of last year for the year 2023.

According to Plan

On the occasion of hosting his first annual luncheon as newly promoted President and CEO of both the overall Association and the Club subsidiary, Robert said, “My American journey began in 1976 in Pauma Valley in San Diego County. As a young immigrant boy, I dreamed of success, happiness, contributing positively to society, and leading a meaningful life.

John Hawkins, Club Founder

“Back in the day, my sisters and I would hold fancy ‘board meetings’ at the dining table, dreaming big dreams,” he continued. “As children under 10 years of age, we imagined an unstoppable factory, churning out mysterious goodies from its magical smokestacks. You see, living on a lonely farm without cable TV meant we had to get creative to keep ourselves entertained. But surprisingly, my true passion wasn’t factories – it was all about the fascinating world of people, helping them, helping you attain your happiness and fulfillment!

“The factories of my dreams may have been replaced by people and their potential, but the ambition remains the same. I am committed to leveraging this opportunity to serve our employees and Members better and to continue the legacy of service and excellence that defines our organization.”

Robert then thanked all those who assisted him along the way, including his wife, Patty, and friends and mentors who were in the audience.

Robert Larios, Association CEO

Earlier, he introduced his mentor and friend, John Hawkins, and thanked him for all he had done.

“I ask that each of you take a moment to thank John Hawkins. He is a visionary leader, innovator and a champion of integrity. I worked side by side with John for 25 years. I witnessed his unparalleled ascent from middle management to becoming the first Chief Operating Officer and then the second Chief Executive Officer in the 95-year history of the organization. He had charismatically transformed a dormant $3 million nonprofit into a bustling and innovative $35 million industry leader. Through navigating intensely difficult leadership decisions, he spearheaded a strategic campaign that boosted the membership base by more than 350 percent during this time as well. He could have chosen to lead any other private or public firm but found profound satisfaction in rolling up his sleeves and witnessing firsthand the impact he made on his company employees, Board of Directors, business partners, customers, and the communities he served throughout California and the rest of the country.”


Robert then concluded the luncheon: “To our valued Members, I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for your trust,” Robert said. “As we move forward, our commitment to excellence, driven by meeting your needs and expectations, remains unwavering. We are more determined than ever to provide exceptional service and deliver unmatched value.

“Although the transition may bring new challenges, it also reveals exciting opportunities. Together, we will navigate this invigorating chapter, drawing on our shared history while eagerly anticipating continued growth and success. Our journey thus far is a testament to the transformative power of mentorship, strategic planning, and collaboration, and I am honored to lead our organizations into the next phase of our story.

“Let’s remember that every ending marks a fresh start. Here’s to a seamless transition and the start of a new chapter in our shared journey.”

The crowd cheered for another great year of service to public employees.

Recognition for Great Club Service

The Club is all about great service to public employees. A portion of the luncheon was dedicated to recognition of exemplary service.

Club President’s Award

Rey Hernandez

The Club President’s Award is given to a Club staff member who has gone above and beyond the scope of their job. The award was presented by Petros Khachatrian, Club Director of IT, to Rey Hernandez, IT Sr. Developer, who could not attend the luncheon.
Rey Hernandez, “an individual of unwavering diligence and curiosity, has been making waves within our organization. His exceptional kindness and respectfulness stand out, paralleled with an eagerness to learn from peers. Always going above and beyond, Rey has played a big role in the success of a recent massive project. With deep knowledge, expertise, and an unyielding can-do attitude, he has helped propel our organization into the

“This recent project required significant teamwork, but his contribution truly stood out. He single-handedly wrote an impressive 198,426 lines of code distributed across 4,548 files. As we geared up for the release over several months, he took on the responsibility of preparing the database for testing, beginning his day as early as 3 to 4 a.m. While that might sound like a perk for early birds, the reality is quite different—this individual consistently remained the last to sign off. I want to make it clear that I am not a tyrant. This level of dedication was entirely voluntary.

“We express our deepest gratitude for your exceptional service and dedication. You truly deserve this recognition.”

Club Ambassador Award

The Club Ambassador Award is given to a Club Ambassador who exemplifies excitement and enthusiasm for this great City, colleagues and the Club. The year, the honor was given to Chermaine Fontenette, Public Works/Sanitation and Environment; and Cesar Ponce, LADOT.

Noelle Kauffman, Club Director of Sales, introduced the two Ambassador Award winners.

Presenting the Club’s Ambassador’s Award, from left: The Club’s Noelle Kauffman and Cesar Ponce, LADOT; and Chermaine Fontenette, Public Works/Sanitation and Environment, with Association CEO Robert Larios.

Chermaine “played a vital role in helping the Mobile Club Team secure consistent appointments at her department,” Noelle said. “She also 100-percent shared her enthusiasm for the Club with her colleagues, resulting in more than 100 employees becoming part of our Club community. Her dedication and unwavering support make her the best of what it means to be a Club Ambassador. Thank you, Chermaine.

“Our second recipient, Cesar Ponce, deserves equal recognition for his outstanding efforts,” Noelle continued. “He was instrumental in helping me relaunch the Club’s Sports Program – which was founded by Robert in 2008. Despite the challenges posed by Covid, his extensive contacts and exemplary organizational skills allowed us to navigate through all the red tape. As a result, we transitioned our focus to hosting Club-sponsored tournaments for softball and basketball, which turned out to be a booming success! Thank you, Cesar!”

The Club Truck

The Club Truck

The luncheon Jan. 23 highlighted the emergence of the Club Truck, an innovative tool that is already paying dividends in returning value to Members at offices and worksites throughout Los Angeles. The Club Truck made its annual luncheon debut, stationing itself outside the venue’s front doors to invite attendees to experience it in full operation.

The Club also screened “The Truck Whisperer,” a video presentation highlighting the debut of the Club Truck. The video was written and co-produced by Burnes Creative and filmed, edited and co-produced by ÁLAS Media. 

2024 Board of Directors

LACEA (Association)

Chair Andrew Virzi III, LADWP
Phillipe Chou, LADWP
Jackie Koci Tamayo, Santa Clara County
Carlos Rodriguez, LADOT
Capt. Danny Wu, LAFD

LACEA Insurance Services (The Club)
All Retired:

Terry Carter
Marilyn Holley
Rose Hyland
David Muraoka
Rita Robinson
Andrew Virzi Jr.