Anthony Riley is the only candidate for political office in Hesperia this year with his own page in the Internet Movie Database.

His IMDB page is modest -- a part on Melrose Place and in a small independent movie -- but it's an example of Riley's unusual life and career path.

He grew up in Yorba Linda in Orange County, raised by his single widowed mother. She taught him to value what opportunities he had, he said.

"One of the most precious gifts you'll ever have is your education," said Riley, 36.

After college, he spent eight years working in entertainment, including working for Aaron Spelling Television, before he was offered the chance to take over a faltering High Desert charter school.

"They said 'fix it.' I said 'OK, I'll give it a shot."

In a year and a half, what started off with six students had grown to more than 200 and six campuses, including a K-12 program in Hesperia, the School of Performing Arts (later the Performing Arts Academy). Riley, the school's program director, taught social studies and worked as a guidance counselor.

But it still wasn't enough, and the staff took five pay cuts in two and a half years in an attempt to keep the program afloat.

"Even though we were in the black, we never were in control of it," Riley said. "It wasn't our budget."

After working in a variety of roles for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, Riley today works as the county's Economic Development Director, Airports, but is now eyeing a return to education, this time as an elected school board member in the Hesperia Unified School District.

"I want to make sure I can be a voice for the underrepresented people in the community," said Riley. "Everyone has to be involved."

Riley, whose candidacy has been endorsed by the Hesperia Teachers Association, will be stepping onto a board that has seen two years of acrimony and which has weathered an attempted recall of the three sitting incumbents, each of whom was also endorsed by the HTA in 2006.

"We've had a lot of dissension on the board. We've had a very passive board before," Riley said. He would do things differently: "It's time to get in the trenches."

Riley has no children of his own, but was a foster parent for a student enrolled in the School of Performing Arts.

"There really isn't a manual for even parents who have kids naturally," he said. "But it's been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done."

(Riley isn't the only candidate without children attending school in the HUSD: Frank Rich's school-age children attend school in the Victor Elementary School District and Chris Lindsey's children attend a Victorville charter school.)

"I don't need to have kids in the district or to have kids of my own to understand the needs of children or of teachers or of parents," Riley said. "I'm as involved in my community as I can be. ... I have as much stake as the next guy."

And while parents, teachers and staff have an obvious stake in the future of the HUSD, Riley said the district's performance affects all Hesperians.

"How do we bring higher-wage jobs here if there's not a workforce that is geared for it?" Riley wants the district to partner with industry and teach students real-world skills before graduation. "Kids are going to say 'what's waiting for us beyond high school?'"

He would like to see the district to look to the private sector to help bridge the gap during the district's current fiscal crisis.

"You have to balance the budget, but who ends up getting the axe?" he said. "You have to step back and say 'what other resources are out there?"

He would also improve communication with residents.

"We need to do more outreach and community relations, maybe small town hall style meetings," he said.

He would also reach out to the Citizens On Patrol, the volunteer police force that supplements the Hesperia station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's sworn officers. Riley would like to see them supplement the numbers of HUSD school police officers. He'd also like to link school campuses to area fire and police stations in order to improve response time in the event of an emergency.

Riley would also like to see more opportunities for non-college-bound students.

"Whether it be a vocational ed program, a mentorship program," he said. "I think we need to expand that."

Riley and Kirk

Riley doesn't stand completely alone as a candidate: He's friends with Mark Kirk, the son of school board president Robert Kirk and current city council candidate, and has known them for the eight years he's lived in the High Desert.

"I'm proud to have them as friends and proud of Robert's support," he said. "The Kirks have always stood by me, they've always been very loyal. ... Do I agree with them 100 percent of the time? I would be incredibly bored if everyone was always agreeing."

Although Kirk and fellow board members Hardy Black and Lee Rogers have voted in unison for the past two years, Riley said that he won't necessarily do the same, but if he dissents, it will be in a different manner than former member Bruce Minton's sometimes-acrimonious disagreements with Robert Kirk.

"You have to look at democracy as compromise," he said. "Leading by example means we can't have dissension openly, politically grandstanding or belittling another board member. ... That's not the example we should be setting.

"I hope to show our kids the old way of doing things isn't the only way."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.