PALMDALE – Religious leaders from across the Antelope Valley joined more than 300 residents Wednesday evening at a community vigil for Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. The event was organized to allow residents to offer prayers and support for Ledford, who suffered a heart attack Sunday evening and is now in the intensive care unit at Antelope Valley Hospital.
“It’s very heartwarming to see the Antelope Valley come together to support somebody who’s given so much to make this a nice place to live,” said Palmdale Council Member Tom Lackey, who is serving as the Ledford family spokesperson.
Lackey said the mayor needed the community’s support now more than ever.
“Make no mistake, this man is literally fighting for his life at this time,” Lackey said. “He’s doing a hell of a job, but he needs our help everybody. Outside of this event, I hope you will continue to include him in your prayers, because his condition warrants that.”
Despite his condition, the mayor did not want the vigil to be a sad event, said Palmdale Vice Mayor Steve Hofbauer.
“He said ‘I don’t want this to be something somber, I want everybody to be happy,’” Hofbauer said.
Attendees stood up and applauded as Ledford’s wife, Rachelle, came to the podium.
“I just want to thank everybody for all your prayers, they’re all coming through,” Rachelle Ledford said. “He is getting better and we just love all the support.”
The vigil brought together the leaders of 12 different religious and faith-based organizations who each gave prayers and messages in support of Ledford.
“We pray, Father, for Mayor James Ledford that thy healing hand will be upon him, that he be strengthened and sustained and supported,” said Garry Widdison, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Lord, humbly today we cry out to you as a community for your healing and for your presence to surround our mayor in the hospital,” said Pastor Angela Galanis of Palmdale United Methodist Church.
Shelly Moskowitz of the Temple Beth Knesset Bamidbar in Lancaster shared prayers in Hebrew and English.
“May God swiftly send him a complete renewal of body and spirit and let us say amen,” Moskowitz said.
David McKinney, from Highlands Christian Fellowship, said when he met Ledford, he did not immediately know that Ledford was mayor of Palmdale.
“He just walked up to me and said ‘hi, I’m Jim’… and I didn’t know who he was,” McKinney said. “What I walked away with was he is genuinely a warm man, and I felt it that day.”
“He’s genuine,” said Sgt. Kyle Bistline of the Palmdale Station. “If you’ve gone to any one of the speaking engagements from the least to the greatest, you will never see him with notes and that’s because he speaks from his heart.”
Also offering prayers of support and encouragement for Ledford were Bishop Kalem Kengga of United Christian Fellowship; Ned Beadel of Desert Winds Church; Pastor Larry Ali of Desert Vineyard; Bishop Henry Hearns of Living Stone Cathedral of Worship; Brian Coleman of King’s Table; Terry Van Hook of Lancaster Methodist Church; Kamal Al-Khatib, President of the American Islamic Institute; and Bahá’í Worthington Pinkett.
The event drew several Lancaster leaders as well, including Council Members Sandra Johnson and Ken Mann.
“It’s awful what happened, but thank God he’s still with us,” said Mann, who said his friendship with Ledford goes back at least 20 years.
“What brought me here was the City of Lancaster sent the invitation out to the city commissioners,” said Sue Dell, who sits on the Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commission. “It’s clear that there are some things that are really important, and that’s the health and support of human beings who are working together to make good quality change.”
“I wouldn’t miss a chance to stand together with people who want to support Mayor Ledford,” Dell added.
As the vigil wrapped, attendees stood in line for several minutes to write notes of encouragement on poster boards that will be given to Ledford in the hospital.
Many said they felt compelled to show their support for a man who had given so much to so many people.
“It’s always been my dream to bring every faith-based organization together, and it just happened within a 48-hour period,” said event organizer Debbie Dino. “We all came together, we all respected each other’s faiths and beliefs and we all did it for Jim. That’s exactly what he wants, that’s exactly what Jim is all about.”