Grace Flores Napolitano was born in Brownsville, Texas. After high school, she married and moved with her husband to California where they raised 5 children. She began her political career in 1986 as a member of the Norwalk City Council, and in 1989 Napolitano’s fellow council members selected her to serve as Mayor. During her tenure, she addressed the city's need for jobs and reliable public transportation. Napolitano was elected in 1992 to the California Assembly, where she quickly earned a reputation as a hard worker and champion for international trade/economic expansion, environmental protection, transportation, immigration, small businesses, and women’s issues.
US Congress - California's 32nd District
First elected to Congress in 1998, Napolitano is currently serving her ninth term and represents the 32nd Congressional District of California. Her Los Angeles County-based district covers several cities and communities in the San Gabriel Valley – El Monte, West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park, Azusa, Duarte, Irwindale, Industry, La Puente, Avocado Heights, West Puente Valley, Valinda, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Monrovia.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Napolitano is the most senior California member of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure where she currently serves as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, which oversees EPA’s Clean Water Act and US Army Corps of Engineers water programs.
On that panel, Napolitano works with the Corps, local flood control districts, and water agencies to capture more water in flood control reservoirs, which is a major issue at Santa Fe Dam in her district and the bordering Whittier Narrows Dam. In 2014 she was appointed as a conferee to finalize the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), providing more equity to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in dredging operations. She also secured important provisions for L.A. County to expand water supply, flood control, and recreation projects in the region. Napolitano supports both the Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan and improvements to the San Gabriel River with environmental restoration projects and recreational opportunities, such as bikeways, fishing, and swimming areas.
Napolitano also encourages the EPA and sanitation agencies to find ways to recycle water for irrigation use and groundwater replenishment. She closely monitors the implementation of a new Clean Water Act Stormwater Permit, ensuring affordability for L.A. County cities and residents.
In the fall of 2015, Napolitano became the only California Democrat appointed to finalize the recently passed FAST Act (H.R. 22), a $305 billion 5-year transportation bill for the nation. Napolitano fought to secure more than $26 billion for California, $450 million per year of which going to the Los Angeles region for transit funding, benefiting Foothill Transit, LA Metro, and Metrolink. Funds will also relieve congestion, improve transit, and reduce the negative impacts her district takes on as a primary shipping corridor from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
House Natural Resources Committee
Napolitano also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and is a long-time promoter of conservation, water recycling, desalination, and groundwater management as solutions to Southern California’s water needs. She has introduced H.R. 291, the Water in the 21st Century Act, which would provide $700 million in grants and $500 million in loans for water recycling, groundwater management, stormwater, and water infrastructure projects. In the 110th and 111th Congresses, she chaired the Subcommittee on Water and Power where she strengthened Native American water rights through the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 and championed reauthorization in 2011 of the Desalination Act of 1996.
Congressional Mental Health Caucus
Napolitano is the founder and Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. She has been active in securing mental health parity in the Affordable Care Act, promoting mental health legislation, and working with prominent figures to increase funding and access to mental health services in Congress. Her 2001 pilot program providing mental health and suicide prevention services on-site in four schools has expanded to 25 K-12 schools throughout San Gabriel Valley and Southeast LA County with assistance from Los Angeles County Mental Health, which now serves as a model for H.R. 1211, the Mental Health in Schools Act.
Congressional Youth National Guard Challenge Caucus
Napolitano is also the founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Youth Challenge Caucus, which supports Youth Challenge: a program run by the National Guard cadre using military discipline and education to help at-risk youth complete high school to emerge better armed with knowledge and training for success.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
The Congresswoman is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which she served as Chairwoman during the 109th Congress. During her tenure as Chairwoman, Napolitano played a key role in working with President George W. Bush and congressional leadership to reauthorize the Voting Right Act of 1965 and in writing a Democratic immigration overhaul proposal that would have created a guest worker program and provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.