Fil-Am women head town of Colma
CALIFORNIA, USA – Colma may be tiny but its impact on the Filipino American political and women's empowerment is huge.
The smallest city in San Mateo County with a little over 1,500 residents boasts a town chief and her deputy who share more than public service or political aspiration in common: They are both of Filipino descent.
Newly re-elected Colma City Council member Joanne del Rosario and member Diana Colvin swore in as Mayor and Vice Mayor December 9 at the town's year-end reorganization.
A certified executive assistant, Del Rosario was elected in 2006. Colvin, who works at Cow Palace, was appointed in 2008 and was elected the following election.
Collaboration over competition
The Fil-Am tandem are starting 2015 with a strong message: collaboration trumps competition.
"I join the community in celebrating the success of Mayor del Rosario and Vice Mayor Colvin," Alice Bulos hailed the leaders to Philippine News. "Their success will inspire those of us considering running for office and looking for mentorship."
Del Rosario modeled magnanimity upon getting the gavel.
"It's a real boost for Filipino Americans, especially our women," she weighed in on the significance of the double Fil-Am leadership. "This is an opportunity to shine. We often talk about empowerment, but here is a chance to see it in action."
Paying the goodwill forward, del Rosario acknowledged those who have sustained her in meeting the "great demands" of public service in her installation remarks.
"Although we would love to serve our community alone and not have to rely on a regular job, it is unfortunately a reality," she said, explaining her choice for oath administrators. "So to have the support of the people I work with is a huge plus. They understand that it is possible to do both."
Del Rosario invited her boss, Dohmen Life Science Services senior vice president Dr. Herbert Lee, to swear her in as a re-elected council member. Retired council member and former Mayor Frossana Vallerga swore her in as mayor.
Vallerga, now a resident of Sonoma, officiated the marriage of del Rosario to Rene Malimban seven years ago at City Hall.
Colvin was sworn in by Colma City Manager Sean Rabe.
Del Rosario recognized family and friends as well as her challengers in the last election.
"It is very easy to win an election when you are unopposed, but when you are fortunate to win when others run against you, it’s even more humbling as it reaffirms the trust and confidence your constituents have in you," she shared. "...We all share one common goal, and that is our love for Colma."
Her message to her colleagues: "What’s wonderful is that each year we continue to grow as a council."
While Colma has been known as the final resting place of icons Levi Strauss, Wyatt Earp and Joe DiMaggio, Filipino Americans can take pride that it is home to del Rosario, the first Filipino American woman to become mayor in all nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area. And now it is also the first U.S. municipality whose top officials both are women and Filipino American.
Heading the community ought to feel familiar for the del Rosario, who topped the Nov. 4 election for one of two vacancies contested by a co-incumbent and seniormost peer, the town treasurer and her husband.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario would be happy to note that his youngest sibling matches his accomplishments in her own way. This is the third time her peers chose her to lead them in governing the "City of Souls," as the town bills itself.
"Being Mayor the third time around is not necessarily easier," she explained to PNews. "Perhaps (easier) in the sense that you have by now developed a sense of how things are done, but the challenges and issues we face are always different. Even for longtime council members, we are continuously learning from each other and that is what makes us such a dynamic team."
If elections are job reviews for public officials, last month's victory enhanced del Rosario's prospects as contender for higher office, particularly with the in-district voting system in place for the County Board of Supervisors already motivating aspirants in Daly City. But she says her sights are set on her current role.
"I am not really looking at any other plans for public office. Colma is a unique community, and I am happy where I am and am honored to be able to serve our residents," she said, citing her first priorities. "The remodel of Town Hall is a huge undertaking for Colma. We are trying to maintain the historical integrity of the building, while trying to fit our entire staff all under one roof. We have gone through the economic downturn and are now looking forward to many exciting projects in 2015, including economic development."
Last year the council adopted its citywide "Climate Action Plan" to increase energy efficiency, water conservation and improve recycling.
The council approved a fiscal year 2014-15 budget of $19 million providing $13.6 million to operate departments and some $5.4 million to the capital improvements.
One vote can make or break a political career in this town made famous by residents of its cemeteries.
Eight years ago, the New York-born Tagalog-speaking del Rosario who attended Maryknoll College in Manila surprised herself when she won in her first political campaign, toppling seasoned but less-forthright opponents, whose legal trouble surfaced as election neared. One retired early, another stayed and lost.
Two years later Honolulu native Colvin wowed the council with her application for an open seat and became the second FilAm woman council member. She also became the second FilAm woman mayor in 2010. She does not speak a Philippine language.
In November del Rosario took 87 and Helen Fisicaro got 86 votes to return to their seats in the female-dominated council completed by Colvin, Raye Gonzales and Joe Silva - both Latinos.
As Vice Mayor, Colvin is the presumptive mayor next year.
The rentals and operations officer of the Cow Palace Arena, a facility owned by the state, Colvin attended local schools and began college at College of San Mateo and Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Colvin has been a Colma resident for over 40 years after her family moved to the mainland from Hawaii.
She heads up the membership committee of the Colma Historical Association, which she joined in 1998. Her other passions are helping out with the North Peninsula Emergency Food Pantry and Dining Center of Daly City.
Colvin will be up for re-election in 2016. – Rappler.com
This story was republished with permission from Philippine News