Kennedy Family Connects with Calexico

When former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II traveled to the California border city of Calexico to sign a transmission deal several years ago, a local resident asked that he use profits from the high-voltage line to repair lighting systems at municipal parks named for his family.

The Citizens Energy chairman promised to replace the broken lights and make the Kennedy Gardens neighborhood safer and more accessible for the residents, many of them farm workers whose families have lived there for generations.

The promise was redeemed in September when Kennedy’s son traveled to Calexico to attend a community celebration where music played and children frolicked in the park under the soft glow of energy-efficient LED lights atop an array of slender aluminum columns.

Joe Kennedy speaks to former Police Commissioner Dan Gutierrez at the Kennedy Gardens lighting ceremony on Sept. 5, 2023

“We’re so happy to finally see this day come,” said Joseph P. Kennedy III, the president of Citizens Energy Corporation, the company founded by his father to channel profits from energy ventures to help families and communities in need.

“We are proud to work with the City of Calexico and the residents of the neighborhood to make these improvements. It shows what can happen when an energy company with a heart aims to help communities impacted by big projects.”

Speaking in both Spanish and English, the red-headed former Peace Corps volunteer and Massachusetts congressman gave heartfelt thanks to the city for honoring his family and working to improve the parks in Kennedy Gardens named after his grandfather Robert F. Kennedy and his great-uncle, President John F. Kennedy.

Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy III stands with members of the Imperial Irrigation District in Calexico.
Javier Gonzalez, the Calexico resident who made the original request, was subsequently elected as a director of the Imperial Irrigation District, which provides water and power to farms, businesses and residents of Imperial County, a high-desert plateau tucked into the Golden State’s southeast corner.

Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy III stands with members of the Imperial Irrigation District in Calexico.

Wearing an IID hat, Gonzalez thanked the Kennedys and Citizens Energy for the lights. “This is a wonderful celebration,” he said, pointing to kids on swings and nearby hoop courts in use under the lights. “Young kids come and play basketball, that’s what it’s all about.”

Calexico Mayor Raul Ureña recalled the efforts of Robert F. Kennedy as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate to advocate for farmworkers and hailed the work of Citizens Energy, IID and the city as a model public-private partnership.

“We are honored to have the Kennedy family in Calexico again on the forefront of progressive social investments in our border community,” said Ureña. “This project has brought IID and the city of Calexico closer together in a worker relationship for the betterment of our community.”

At the lighting ceremony, the local neighborhood watch committee presented Calexico City Manager Esperanza Colio Warren and Hector Gannon of Advanced Lighting with service awards named for John F. Kennedy. The city manager worked closely with Advanced Lighting to install the new system.

The younger Kennedy also announced at the gathering that Citizens Energy was providing the last block of funding – over $60,000 – needed to complete upgrades to the Camarena Heroes Park, named for Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, the famed DEA agent and Calexico native who was kidnapped by Mexican drug cartel members and killed in the line of duty.

Funding for the $200,000 lighting system and the Camarena Heroes Park improvements came from profits earned by Citizens Energy from its investment in the $2 billion Sunrise PowerLink project, which was built to deliver wind, solar and geothermal energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

The Boston-based company’s transmission partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric also resulted in Citizens working with the IID to build the nation’s largest low-income community solar array, which provides $350 in annual electricity savings to over 12,000 households for the 30-year life of the transmission project.

Citizens Energy is best known in Massachusetts for running the JOE-4-OIL program for many years to provide free or discount heating oil for families in need. In recent years, however, the company has switched to green energy, building solar farms, microgrids and battery-storage projects and running the JOE-4-SUN low-income community solar program to provide savings on solar energy to income-eligible households.

The company also invests in transmission lines and uses its profits to deliver benefits to communities where the projects are built. Over the course of its 40-year history, Citizens has delivered over $600 million in benefits to households in the U.S. and in countries where the company does business.