More than a fifth of the 91,000 residents of Carson City, California are Filipino, and this past week, a city that prides itself on its Filipino presence swore in its newest Filipino American city councilwoman, Arleen Bocatija Rojas.
With 31 years of service, Rojas is believed to be the first Filipina officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. An active community member, she ran in the November special election as the city switched its council from an at-large council into district representation.
"I'm excited and I'm ready. I hope everybody is ready and we are going to move mountains," Rojas declares.
There have been other Fil-Am leaders in Carson. In fact, Elito Santarina served as mayor pro tem as recently as two years ago. Rojas however is the first Filipina to be elected to the City Council since Lorlei Olaes held office nearly 30 years ago.
"I'm just so happy that she made it. She knows that I have full support. This is the right person to get elected. I love her so much. I love her independence and she’s very fair, very honest," Santarina says of Rojas.
The first term councilwoman asserts she's ready to get to work in her hometown. "We are going to beautify Carson, make Carson grow, and get the economy up, get more jobs, and get the people to work together. We're stronger together," Rojas points out.
During her swearing in, she stressed that her day job as a patrol officer has prepared her for this larger role. "What you've done, for 31 years, you trained me, you groomed me, you protected me and prepared me for today and now because of you I am now prepared to take this role which is protecting and serving the people of Carson."
Service runs in the Rojas family, which traces its roots to Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. The councilwoman’s son Andy is a US Navy sailor. Andy says he is very proud of his mom. "All of her accomplishments as a police officer and now a council woman, it’s not very surprising," he says.
Because of the switch in voting and the city council, the new councilwoman’s first term will only be a year. Next November, she will run for a full four year term.