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Council Appoints Latina from Pico Neighborhood to Fill Vacant Seat


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Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that newly appointed Councilmember Ana M. Jara is an immigrant from Mexico. She is from Guatemala.

January 22, 2019 -- It took two quick rounds of voting Tuesday night before Ana M. Jara became the first Hispanic from the Pico Neighborhood to take a seat on the City Council.

Jara will fill the seat vacated by Tony Vazquez, the City's first Latino Council member, who resigned after his election to the State Board of Equalization in November.

"I am so humbled by this opportunity and the faith you have deposited in me," a tearful Jara said after assuming her seat on the dais.

"It has taken years for us to do this today, and today this is history," said Jara, who resigned as vice-chair of the Social Services Commission after her appointment. "This is the result of moving forward."

In the first round of voting, Jara won three of the four votes necessary, with Councilmembers Greg Morena, Ted Winterer and Terry O'Day supporting her.

Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Kevin McKeown voted for former Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, while Mayor Gleam Davis voted for College Board member Barry Snell.

In the second round, Jara picked up five votes, with Council member Sue Himmelrich voting for Rent Control Board member Caroline M. Torosis.

As soon as the votes were tallied, the Council gave Jara a prolonged standing ovation, joined by the crowd, which included Jara's family and members of the Pico Neighborhood.

After being sworn in by City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren, Jara stepped onto the dais, where she was hugged by the Council members.

During her speech, Jara thanked her supporters, including her mother, who immigrated from Guatemala, her four daughters and two grandchildren.

"Gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias," she said. "I thank all of you for believing in me, believing I can do the job."

After Vazquez's resignation was accepted January 8, there has been speculation the Council would appoint a Latino from the Pico Neighborhood, preferably a woman, to fill Vazquez's seat.

The appointment comes as the City is fighting a voting rights lawsuit filed by Pico Neighborhood activists, which could force district-based elections if the Superior Court judge in the case makes her decision final.

Jara was the only Hispanic to testify on behalf of the City during the trial, said Kevin Shenkman, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

She was the only Hispanic among the 107 members serving on City boards and commissions in March 2018, shortly before the trial began, Shenkman said.

Jara, who has lived in the city for four decades, is a member of Familias Latinas Unidas (FLU), which works in partnership with police and City leaders on immigation issues, and a leading child care advocate.

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