Skip to content

Get to Know Your 2024 Election Candidates for Ward 1

The Raincross Gazette has exclusive interviews with all five candidates on the March 2024 ballot to represent Ward 1 for the next four years.

Steven Lawson, Kalya Booker, Philip Falcone, Hass Ratnayake, and David Leon Romo Sr will be on the March 5, 2024 ballot as candidates for Ward 1.

As a part of our mission to publish news helpful to Riversiders, The Raincross Gazette is expanding our 2024 Election Guide with a series of interviews with each candidate running for a city office in the March 5, 2024 election. Each candidate had several weeks to answer the same questions written in response to the nearly 500 questions Gazette readers submitted in a survey about their priorities for Riverside in the coming election.

Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot, which was determined through the California Secretary of State Randomized Alphabet Drawing conducted on December 14, 2023.

Steven Lawson

I am an everyday resident of Ward One. My great-grandparents settled in Ward One 120 years ago, and today, I live with my wife, Rebecca, in the house my grandfather built in 1936. As a child, I visited Riverside. I counted ducks at Fairmount Park and helped my Aunt Clara Shaver feed the homeless.

At UCLA, I studied history and communications. I have worked in media—newspapers, television, magazines, books, radio, Internet, podcasts, speeches, fundraising, etc. My roles have been varied: reporter, writer, marketer, editor, teacher, project manager, publisher, etc. My work has taken me from the Vietnamese boat refugees in Singapore to human rights needs in Romania, to the deep South with justice hero John Perkins, and eventually to hosting a Dodgers Stadium book release press conference with Clayton Kershaw.

For several years, I reported city hall news for a local newspaper—always digging deep into all aspects of a story as it impacted residents. Today, I am a self-employed writer and editor. I also feed our rescue cats, Piper and Percy.

Read Steven’s Candidate Interview

Kalya Booker

Kayla Booker is an empowerment advocate, community leader, and business owner based in Riverside Ward 1. As the daughter of an immigrant mother from Trinidad, Kayla draws strength from her diverse background and from a family of veterans and law enforcement. Since 2016, Kayla has been a small business owner and the CEO of the nonprofit organization The Black Collective. Through The Black Collective, she has spearheaded initiatives promoting mentorship, career development, and entrepreneurial growth, showcasing her dedication to creating a brighter future for the community.

Kayla is also making history as she runs for the Ward 1 City Council seat, aiming to become the first Black woman in that role. Her leadership is characterized by a steadfast belief in education, empowerment, and collaboration to inspire positive change within the community.

Read Booker’s Candidate Interview

Philip Falcone

Philip Falcone is an educator, policy advisor, and county commissioner who has nearly a decade of experience in public service, having worked in two Riverside mayoral administrations. His portfolio of work includes architecture, historic preservation, public art, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

Relocating to Riverside from New Orleans following the loss of their family home in Hurricane Katrina, Philip found the outpouring of goodwill shown to his family as uniquely Riverside. He felt called to public service to repay this kindness. Philip is a product of Riverside schools; a graduate of RCC, UCR, and CBU. He resides in Downtown Riverside.

Read Falcone’s Candidate Interview

Hass Ratnayake

My parents emigrated from Sri Lanka when I was five months old. My sister and I were raised in a single, working-parent household in Riverside and attended Montessori, Pachappa, Gage, and Poly. After high school, I created my own company, harvesting and re-selling produce at farmers' markets. Three years later, I decided to pursue my passion for real estate. After a decade, I manage rental properties throughout Southern California. I love my City, State, and Country, and I believe my story is not atypical for those who work hard, stay out of trouble, and pursue their dreams relentlessly.

Read Ratnayake’s Candidate Interview

David Leon Romo Sr

I was born and raised in this city of Riverside. I have attended Fremont Elementary School, Central Middle School, North High School, and Riverside Community College. I received my Associate of Science degree in Administration of Justice at RCC. I've also attended BIOLA, where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Organization Leadership.

Married to Rosie Romo for 42 years, we have two grown children, David Romo Jr and Cheri Romo, and four grandchildren.

I worked for 11 years for the City of Riverside in both the Sanitation department and the Street department. When I received my education, I went to work for 19 years with Riverside County Probation Department. My assignments have been in all Riverside detention facilities, working with at-risk youth from Indio to Murrieta to Riverside. I've held the positions of Counselor, Correctional Officer III, and Supervisor (SPO).

I'm on the Board of Directors of Reid Park Little League as Vice President and Safety Officer. I see that there is more to be done in Ward 1 for future generations to come, and I look forward to serving our city.

Read Romo’s Candidate Interview