Filipino-American Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi is sworn in as a Sierra Madre City Council member. Photo by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau/TFC
CALIFORNIA - A new beginning for Filipinos in the hillside suburb of Sierra Madre as Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi was sworn in as the city's first non-white City Council member on Tuesday night.
"I didn't go into this as being the only minority, being the first Filipino-American. To me, it really was about serving the City of Sierra Madre," said Arizmendi.
Only about 11,000 residents live in the quiet hillside town and about 8 percent are identified as Asian.
Arizmendi grew up in Northern California and had also gone to school in San Diego and Illinois before settling down with her husband in Sierra Madre seven years ago.
The 41-year old Arizmendi is a director of the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE), a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged Asian Americans with employment and business needs.
She is also a teacher at a local college and is also a dietitian.
Arizmendi began serving on the Community Services Commission for the past five years.
"This has really been a city that my husband and I want to be. We're looking forward to retiring in to really putting our roots down in and I really want to be able to serve and really help maintain the quality and way of living in Sierra Madre," she said.
She became emotional as she thanked her parents, including her late Ilocos Norte-born father during her acceptance speech.
Her mother, Ofelia Pastor who hails from Iloilo, came down to Sierra Madre from Salinas in Northern California to see her only child take office.
"We never had any politician and I never thought that's she was going to run for any political position. But she did. At first, she never thought she was going to get into but then she got excited," her mother said.
With the state of California under a drought emergency, Arizmendi said one of her first calls to order will be to help address Sierra Madre's water issues.
"Some of our biggest issues are things like water, where we have our own water system. We're such a small town and it has its own municipality of having our own water district but we don't have water at this time so issues like that we have to make sure we're attending to," she said.
Arizmendi's term will last until 2018.