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Blind Fil-Am lawyer sworn in as West Covina City councilmember

Steve Angeles | TFC News West Covina, California

Posted at Dec 23 2022 08:22 PM

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He may have been born blind, but Ollie Cantos is now bringing his vision to the West Covina City Hall.

The Filipino American lawyer was sworn in as a West Covina city councilmember this week.

"My excitement level is off the charts because this represents the culmination of a lot of hard work of countless people that got us here and when we look at the opportunities that are ahead of us to unite, and to be supportive of making the city better, this day is also historic," Cantos said.

The civil rights attorney held various government posts in Washington, D.C. before the Covid-19 pandemic allowed him to work remotely and return to his hometown of West Covina, some 20 miles from Los Angeles.

"It's really magnificent because I still get to serve in my federal capacity by working remotely with my day job and I also have these series of responsibilities with the city council and I actually, since two days after the election have been working 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week in support of fellow residents of West Covina and it has been a blast."

He added, "there's so much to do, so many organizations and leaders to meet with."

Cantos won't be the only Filipino serving in the current city council. Former mayor Letty Lopez-Viado also took her oath of office. Lopez-Viado, who was first elected to city council in 2018 and became the city's first Filipino and Mexican mayor in 2020, ran unopposed last November.

As she got sworn in, she gladly welcomed her fellow Filipino on the city council.

"Though he can't see with his eyes, he sees with his heart," Lopez-Viado said of Cantos. "He's a very intelligent, well-spoken gentleman, and I'm very excited to work with [him]."

Filipinos make up about a fifth of the city's 109,000 residents.

According to community leaders as well as local officials, Cantos and Lopez-Viado are believed to be the city's first Filipino councilmembers since it was incorporated 100 years ago.

"Together with them, we will be serving the community and make West Covina a greater city that we can be proud of," Linda Santos of the Filipino American Association of West Covina declared.

City Council terms last four years, with mayors elected by the council members every year.