From 1991 when her father was appointed to a vacancy on the Fresno County Board of Education to 2016 when he left the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in a failed bid for Fresno mayor, there has been at least one Perea in an elected public office locally.
Henry R. Perea served 5½ years on the school board (he was the first Latino appointed to that position), then spent six years on the Fresno City Council (1996-2002) and a dozen years as a supervisor. He won six campaigns before losing to Lee Brand in a close mayoral race in 2016.
Henry T. Perea, the son, was elected to the city council in 2002 and then the state Assembly in 2010 before retiring early in December 2015 to take a lobbyist position.
Today, Annalisa Perea, the middle of Henry R. Perea’s three children at age 31, has jumped successfully into the political fray by defeating two other candidates for the State Center Community College District board.
The surname, she admits, was more of an advantage than a disadvantage.
“Many individuals thought I would sit back and ride the wave of my last name and not hit the pavement every day,” said Perea. “But, that is exactly what I did.
“It wasn’t something I took for granted. It was really important for me to know that I earned each and every vote.”
Perea ran into voters who had never had a candidate knock on their doors before. “It was important for me to make that connection with the voters,” she said.
Although she had walked precincts for her father and brother in the past, “asking people to vote for me instead of someone else was almost more difficult.”
“It really gave me a different type of opportunity to connect with the community,” she said.
Despite having grown up politicking alongside her father and brother, Annalisa had to think twice before jumping into her own political race.
“It was not an easy decision for me even though I’ve grown up in politics,” she said during a recent interview. “I know the time commitment and the level of energy that goes into it.”
The Quad Knopf senior associate planner – and member of the Tower District Design Committee – wanted to make sure she was “110 percent committed” in the race to replace Miguel Arias, who successfully won a seat on the Fresno City Council.
“I wanted to make sure that it would be the next step on how I could give more back to my community,” said Perea, a 2005 Bullard High School graduate who attended Fresno City College before earning her bachelor’s degree in city and regional planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (2010).
The obvious solution was to talk to her father, her mother, her two brothers and her partner.
“They had a lot of great advice at the end of the day,” said Annalisa. They all vowed to support her 100 percent “as long as your heart is in it and you’re doing it for the right reason.”
She rejected calls for her to run for the Fresno City Council because of the time commitment from her love of a professional career that began with a class assignment at Bullard Talent that called for her to draw a 3D city. (“I loved it. I always thought I’d get into architecture and not create just one or two buildings but build a city in a grander scale,” she said.)
The position on the board that oversees a $293.7 million budget and provides education to more than 63,000 students in Fresno, Clovis, Reedley, Madera and Oakhurst appealed to her.
“The foundation of everything that I’ve done has always been education,” said Perea, “where you really have the ability to influence – especially at the higher education levels – and impact the kinds of people we’re putting out in the community.”
Perea figures a four-year school “is not for everybody.”
“We want to give people who are looking to exit high school the skill so they can go to work,” said Perea, who sold snow cones as a girl to earn extra money and would often accompany her father to clean graffiti.
Her focus on the college board will be “college affordability” that extends beyond tuition and includes books, food, gas and transportation.
“We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to make sure they do succeed,” said Perea. “We need to make the college-going experience easy and affordable.”
This story was updated on Jan. 11 for corrections.