Marla Matime and S. E. Williams |

“She was a strong voice in our community,” shared Marla Matime, Chief Operating & Communications Officer, Voice Media Ventures, and resident of Moreno Valley when she learned of the sudden loss of Moreno Valley City Councilmember Dr. Carla J. Thornton following an undisclosed illness on Thursday, January 21, 2021.

Thornton’s commitment and care for her city and its citizens was evident to all who knew her. “Moreno Valley is full of good, hard-working people who want to continuously invest in and improve this city for themselves and their neighbors. Moreno Valley, simply put, is home,” said Thornton when she campaigned to represent District 2 in the Moreno Valley City Council.

She ran a successful campaign and was elected to her first four-year term as a member of the Moreno Valley City Council in November 2018—the first African American ever elected to the Council.

Service defined Thornton’s life in many ways. She spent 20 years in the United States Air Force and served on Moreno Valley’s Environmental and Historic Preservation Board for over 5 years. She also served as chair of the city’s Traffic Commission and as a proud veteran, was appointed by the governor to serve the state’s veteran’s population as a board member of the California Department of Veteran Affairs.  

Having grown up in Moreno Valley, she had first-hand knowledge of the city, embraced its residents and believed in their willingness to continuously invest in and improve the city for themselves and their neighbors. She once described the city as, “the perfect place to raise a family and build a successful life.”

In early 2020 Thornton was honored by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy at it annual Social Work Day in Washington, D. C. with the Outstanding Individual in Government Award in recognition of her combined work as a social worker, local elected official, and faculty member at California Baptist University; and in October 2020 she was appointed Vice Chair of the League of California Cities Housing, Community and Economic Development Policy Committee, one of the League’s seven policy committees.

“Councilwoman Thornton was a dedicated public servant who cared deeply for the residents of her district and the City as a whole,” said Moreno Valley Mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez when he announced her passing. “Carla brought an incredible amount of enthusiasm, energy and real joy to her Council work, and she had so much more to contribute. This is a tremendous loss for Moreno Valley, and I will miss her as a colleague and as a friend.”

Beyond the remembrances of Mayor Gutierrez, condolences have poured in from across the region.

“She was one of the best.  She was very welcoming and felt like a sister. She was the only Black woman on the Traffic Safety Commission when I was appointed, and she was so refreshing and welcomed me onto the commission. She would bring her daughter to her meetings and her daughter is just as poised and perfect as she was. When she expressed to me that she was interested in running for city council, I told her that I would support  her 100 percent. I helped her with her campaign and urged everyone in my district to vote for her. When she was sworn in to serve on our council, she was very articulate and engaging. People leaned into the things that she said she would do, and during her time serving on theCouncil, she did exactly what she had promised. We clicked and formed a solid bond serving together. I am truly going to miss her.”  

–  Anita Robinson, Traffic Safety Commission, Chair, City of Moreno Valley 

“I met Dr. Thornton at a League of CA Cities African American Caucus luncheon back in 2019. She had such a strong presence and that is what I was drawn to.  When I found out she was the Councilmember for my district, I admittedly told her that I had voted for one of her opponents, but that did not stop her from helping to guide me in serving our community by becoming more civically engaged.  It was because of her recommendation, that I applied to serve on the Traffic Safety Commission.  She showed up for events I planned and invited me to engagements I had the opportunity to support her in. She was just a magnet and people loved her.  Her spirit, her leadership, and her charisma was contagious and I am so blessed and honored I had the opportunity to serve our community under her leadership.  My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and close friends.”

 – Marla A. Matime, Traffic Safety Commissioner, City of Moreno Valley 

Dear Carla,

“Though you won’t read this message here on earth, I know you will read it from your rightful place in Heaven. You will be dearly and sorely missed by all of us. We’ve been praying for you and your family during these recent days, not knowing what you were going through. When I heard the news today, I had no words. All I could do was pray to God. Though we worked together for a short time and didn’t know each other very well, I learned so much from you. You were a strong leader, a dedicated single mother, a decorated veteran, and an accomplished woman of color. God is with you, my sister. May he keep you and give you your rightful place at his side. I know you will continue helping our City from heaven, and my family and friends will do everything we can to honor and remember your name. Rest in peace my dear friend. We love you so much, and we will always remember you.

To the Thornton Family, and especially your daughter Corral, my heart goes out to you. My family is here for anything you may need. I’m so sorry for your loss, but we are at your complete service.”

–          An open letter from Moreno Valley City Councilmember Ulises Cabrera

“I mourn the loss of my friend and colleague Dr. Carla Thornton. At one point we were political opponents but found ways to work together on behalf of the African American community. She will be missed.”

–    Corey Jackson, CEO & Chair of SBX Youth and Family Services, Board member RCBOE.

The family of Dr. Thornton has asked that their privacy be respected and has not yet shared information regarding services.

Marla Matime is Chief Operating & Communications Officer, Voice Media Ventures and Traffic Safety Commissioner, City of Moreno Valley 

S. E. Williams is Executive Editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.