LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the City Council Tuesday in saluting Tom LaBonge’s nearly 40 years of public service.

LaBonge, known to many as “Mr. Los Angeles,” joined the City Council in 2001, when he ran successfully to fill the 4th District seat after John Ferraro died. Since then, he was re-elected three more times.

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Garcetti and LaBonge’s council colleagues came ready with jokes about his outsized personality, reflected in his deep knowledge of high school football teams, penchant for big hugs and love of Los Angeles institutions such as Pink’s Hot Dogs. But they also expressed admiration for his hands-on approach to serving constituents in his 4th District, which stretches from Sherman Oaks to Hollywood.

LaBonge has been seen weeds around the city, getting too close for comfort to a fire at his beloved Griffith Park and giving wild, off-the-beaten-path tours of Los Angeles.

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“Nobody can doubt his authenticity,” Garcetti said. “We’ve all been through it. The first time you meet Tom LaBonge, you’re like, ‘There’s no way this guy is for real.’ And you peel away the layers of the onion and realize that he is a 100 percent who he is, what he is and really, who we are and what we’re about here.”

LaBonge called his years working for the city a special opportunity and recounted a formative experience attending an event in 1975 featuring then-Mayor Tom Bradley, who was about to leave when he saw a woman whose car broke down. Bradley used jumper cables to help the woman restart her car.

“I carry a jumper cable in my car because of Tom Bradley, because that’s service to all people in need,” LaBonge said.

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