First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre City Council

LOS ANGELES – On April 8, Rachelle Arizmendi became the first non-white and first Filipino-American member of the Sierra Madre City Council.

Arizmendi edged out re-electionist Gene Goss and two other newcomer candidates for the council seat during the general municipal elections on Tuesday in Sierra Madre.

Arizmendi joins the five-member Sierra Madre City Council for an initial term of four years.

She expressed her delight over her electoral victory.

“I am grateful for the faith and confidence of the voters of Sierra Madre. I look forward to representing the 11,000 residents of Sierra Madre and working to keep Sierra Madre great!” Arizmendi said.

Arizmendi is the daughter of Franklin Pastor from Laoag, Ilocos Norte, and Ofelia Sumagaysay-Pastor from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. She is also the niece of Primo Sumagaysay of the Knights of Columbus organization based in Panorama City. She is married to Fili Arizmendi. They have been living in Sierra Madre since 2006.

In an email correspondence with Asian Journal, Arizmendi revealed her plans for the city.

“I ran for City Council to help maintain and enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Arizmendi said.

Arizmendi said that she will work towards ensuring that Sierra Madre is on the right track towards establishing fiscal discipline, limiting and controlling urban development, maintaining the neighborhood friendly appeal of downtown Sierra Madre, and improving education in the city.

“As a long-time Sierra Madre homeowner, I am dedicated to maintaining home values. That means I will work towards limiting and controlling development to preserve the unique charm of Sierra Madre,” Arizmendi said.

She also said that in recognition of the value of strong neighborhood schools, she will work with the Pasadena Unified School District to make sure that Sierra Madre Schools will receive their fair share of resources.

In addition to these issues, Arizmendi also vowed to prioritize public safety, neighborhood protection, and water supply issues.

Arizmendi said that the “servant-leader” paradigm guides her style of public service, as well as her life in general.

As a graduate of two key leadership development programs in Southern California, Arizmendi said that her choice to be civically engaged and to be a “servant-leader” has been at the core of the guiding principles of how she lives her life.

Quoting RK Greenleaf, Arizmendi said that “the servant-leader is [a] servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then [a] conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”

Holistic representation

According to the 2010 US Census, Sierra Madre’s population is comprised of Caucasians (82 percent), Hispanics (15 percent), and Asians (8 percent).

As the first Filipino councilmember in a predominantly white community, Arizmendi said that her ethnicity “was not a driving force” during her campaign period. She only met four Filipinos in Sierra Madre during the course of her 12-week campaign trail.

She said that her focus has been, and will continue to be, to make a holistic representation of the entire community of Sierra Madre.

Nevertheless, Arizmendi said that she is proud of her Filipino heritage.

“In fact, I as a young child — for over the course of 10 or so years — performed the tinkling, pandanggo as ilaw, played the banduria, and sang Filipino folk songs for hundreds of events and shows,” Arizmendi said.

In some cities in Southern California, there is low voter turnout among Filipinos during election season.

Noting this, Arizmendi said that given her experience with her full-time profession as a director for the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment, she will continue to work with Asian communities — the Filipinos included — in promoting civic involvement and encouraging a higher level of engagement at the legislative and elective position levels.

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