Antonio Villaraigosa looks back with pride and pleasure at his days as a legislator – he was a member of the Los Angeles City Council and the California state assembly.
But it was his time as mayor of Los Angeles – the first Latino to hold the post – that he holds in special esteem.
“I’ve made no secret that although I loved being a legislator, I particularly loved being a chief executive,” Villaraigosa, 62, told Fox News Latino.
And that is why he has his eyes on the governor’s office – not for right now, but definitely someday.
“I would be honored to serve,” when asked if he plans to run for governor, something many observers predict he will do in 2018. “And wouldn’t be surprised if one day I started knocking on those doors.”
Villaraigosa says that after some 20 years in public office, and the time that usurped from his home and family, he is reveling in being a dad.
“I just bought a house,” he said, “my kids and I are spending time together. And we’re enjoying that. Family is important, I was gone a lot in the 20 years of public service.”
It’s the reason, he said, he did not run for a seat that many California political observers viewed as having his name written all over it – the U.S. Senate post that is up for grabs following Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement announcement.
Villaraigosa, who has statewide and nationwide name recognition, was deemed the most formidable Latino candidate – and among the strongest candidates in general – in California, where Latinos comprise some 40 percent of the population and were pushing for the first Hispanic to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.
While California’s 14 million Latinos are nearly 40 percent of the population, they make up only 17 percent of the likely voters, said the Public Policy Institute of California. But four in 10 of those likely voters live in Los Angeles, giving Villaraigosa something of an edge with that bloc should he run for office again.
Villaraigosa has four children, the youngest of whom is a daughter who is about to graduate from the University of Southern California.
“[My children] mean a whole lot to me,” he said. “The plan had always been to walk away from the mayor’s [job], eight years as mayor of Los Angeles, to take in and reflect upon almost 20 years of public service…and then get ready to serve again, hopefully.”
But don’t picture Villaraigosa spending his days just fishing, gardening and playing board games.
While he’s more of a family man than he’s been at other times, he still keeps busy, both in politics and in the business world.
Villaraigosa – who was the national co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and in general has a close relationship with the former Secretary of State – is pushing for her again to be the next U.S. president.
He also has been a consultant for several companies, including Banc of California, and Herbalife Ltd.
Villaraigosa believes that the state is ready to elect more Latinos to statewide and national positions. (Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat, is seen as someone who may vie to succeed Boxer.)
“What I think you’ll see increasingly is that Latinos will take positions of influence and public service,” Villaraigosa said. “More and more, people are open to that.”
“When I ran the first time in 2001, they called me ‘The Latino mayor,’” he said. “By the time I left in 2013, with a 58 percent approval rating – half the people liked me, half the people didn’t – I was everybody’s mayor. There was never any criticism that I was just for one group.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente