Jewish Journal

Nahai’s departure from DWP surprises L.A.‘s Iranian Jews

by Karmel Melamed

October 9, 2009 | 11:18 am

H. David Nahai, former L.A. DWP head and now policy advisor for the Clinton Climate Initiative.

For the last nine years I have come to know H. David Nahai from my experiences in reporting on the local Iranian Jewish community. When I learned that he was resigning as the head of the L.A. Department of Water and Power last Friday, I was not at all shocked as I’ve always known Nahai to be an open-minded person who has always sought to work in the public sector for the greater good of the community. Yet many members of the city’s Iranian Jewish community who have spoken with me since his resignation last week have said they were surprised to learn he was leaving his post.

From the New York Times article recently, it seems as if Nahai is moving onto greener pastures by joining the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) as a senior advisor. During the time I’ve known Nahai, in addition to his work in public sector in various capacities, he has also been a vocal among local Iranian Americans of various faiths in urging them to engaged in voting and civic life. Aside from Beverly Hills Councilmember Jimmy Delshad, Nahai has been the only other prominent Iranian American Jew in city government that really encouraged both young and old in our community to embrace the idea of participating in the public sector. Nahai has indeed inspired many young Iranian Americans to also consider running for local elected office.

I can recall Nahai appearing on local Persian language radio stations to urge local Iranians to vote for Al Gore in 2000, to vote for John Kerry in 2004and to first cast their votes for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005. In April 2005, about 80 prominent Iranian Jews joined Villaraigosa at the Beverly Hills home of Leon Farahnik, an Iranian Jewish businessman, for a campaign fundraiser that collected close to $40,000—Nahai was a part of the efforts to campaign hard for Villaraigosa in our community. Likewise Nahai personally debated former Mayor Hahn Chief of Staff Tim McOsker in April of 2005 at a Santa Monica event attended by both Jewish and non-Jewish Iranians. At that time when I interviewed Nahai about local Iranian Jewish involved in politics he said “I’ve always said that greater political participation was bound to happen and I think we’re seeing that evolution and development happen right now in our community.”

So considering his deep involvement in politics and real passion for environmental protection, its no wonder Nahai has moved onto a more notable post with CCI. I personally would not be surprised if Nahai ran for high elected office in the near future.

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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