Aram and Arminé Chaparyan shared parallel experiences and now both are city managers in L.A. County
By Greg Hardesty
It just kind of happened, the siblings say.
Arminé Chaparyan MPA ’01 and Aram Chaparyan MPA ’03 not only earned their master’s degrees from the USC Price School, but in May 2021, they achieved a rarity in municipal governance: a brother and a sister both serving as city managers in Los Angeles County.
It wasn’t planned, they insist.
But all their lives, they’ve shared parallel experiences.
Both attended John Muir High School in the Pasadena Unified School District after their parents emigrated from their homeland, Armenia.
Both were Associated Student Body presidents at John Muir High.
Both earned their undergraduate degrees in political sciences at University of California schools: Aram at UC Irvine (’99) and Arminé at UCLA (’00).
Both now are married parents of three children who are BFFs. Aram’s children are ages 15, 12, and 6, and Arminé’s are 13, 10, and 6.
They live within 5 miles of each other (along with their parents and other relatives) and frequently run into each other dropping their kids off at school.
“We’ve never had what you’d call sibling rivalry,” Aram says. “It’s been more like sibling support. I always tell people Arminé is the smart one academically. I just find ways to make it up through my hard work.
“That’s not true,” Arminé says. “Aram’s very bright, too.”
Strong family values
The Chaparyans’ childhood was difficult but along with a younger brother, Arman, they enjoyed a happy family dynamic.
Aram was 11 and Arminé was 9 when the family left Armenia – then under communist rule – and settled in Pasadena in 1987. They spoke no English. The siblings recall the electricity going out often and at times not having running water when they were children in Armenia.
Their father, Panos, and mother, Endza, worked in construction and education, respectively, in Armenia. When they came to the United States, their parents had to start all over. The family took advantage of social programs designed to help families of modest means.
Their parents instilled in them a sense of decency and humility and the motivation to study and work hard.
“They were very firm in us pursuing higher education because they desired to give us a better life than they had,” Aram says.
The siblings say their humble beginning made them resilient, empathetic to the needs of others, and able to relate to people from all walks of life – qualities that serve them well in running cities.
“Our background gave us a good foundation that helps us in our everyday jobs,” Arminé says. “We both understand what the different segments of the community are looking for and experiencing.”
True to their school
While at UCLA, Arminé’s mentor urged her to apply for graduate studies at the USC Price School.
“I was told it was the best one to apply to for a career in public administration,” Arminé says. “It was one of the best decisions of my life. It really is an excellent program, and I made an amazing network of friends and mentors.”
Arminé talked her brother into applying at USC Price. He thought he was done with higher education, but he warmed up to the idea.
“She was my inspiration,” Aram says.
As they began their careers at entry-level municipal positions, they remained close to their Trojan family. And as their careers progressed, they became mentors and began hosting students for externships and serving on career panels.
“We got the highest level of education with the best professors at USC Price,” Aram says, “so we do all we can to support the university.”
The siblings are big on paying it forward and providing opportunities for rising talent.
To that end, Aram created a Management Assistant program in Torrance, where people can rotate within city departments for two years, giving them an opportunity to obtain full-time employment.
Arminé also is passionate about helping develop the next generation of city leaders.
“That’s something I truly take pride in,” she says.
More than a paycheck
Aram and Arminé consult with each other when issues arise at work, but when they’re off the clock it’s all about family. They love going on camping trips together and having barbecues.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Aram says of Arminé running a city and raising three kids with her husband. “It’s inspiring to know I have a superwoman in our family.”
Arminé smiles, not willing to take all the credit.
“We’re a close-knit family with a village around us that helps us out a lot,” she says.
It’s time for them to get back to work. Torrance has a population of nearly 150,000 compared to South Pasadena’s 26,000, but both cities face similar challenges: Budget wrangling. Homelessness. Affordable housing.
The list goes on.
Aram and Arminé appear unflappable.
“This isn’t just a job for us,” Arminé says. “This is a path we’ve both taken because we’re both so passionate about being public servants.”