Gonzalez Sworn-in As First Latina/o to Serve on Seattle City Council
SEATTLE – Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez received the Oath of Office on Tuesday evening, following certification of election results by King County Elections. Before her friends and colleagues and a packed-Council Chambers, Gonzalez reflected on her election, plans for her forthcoming Council term, and shared what it means to be the first Latina/o to serve the Seattle City Council in a speech clocking-in at less than ten minutes.
“Mayor Murray, Council President Burgess, friends and family, sisters and brothers, I stand before you today with sincere appreciation for the opportunity I have to represent our community in our state’s largest city as the first Latina sworn into the Seattle City Council.”
Citing her experience as a civil rights attorney and community advocate, Gonzalez also acknowledged her service as legal counsel to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and as a partner at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, representing workers in wage theft and anti-discrimination cases and representing victims of police misconduct as formative experiences. She also recognized and thanked her parents for “…(believing) the American dream was achievable.”
Born and raised in Washington’s lower Yakima Valley to a Spanish-speaking migrant farmworker family, Gonzalez – who earned her first paycheck at the age of 8 – reminded the audience “…I don’t have the background of a typical politician. Mine is a lived experience rooted in the reality of overcoming poverty and injustice. I am living proof that access to opportunity, coupled with hard work, is a recipe for success. I graduated high school in the face of overwhelming odds. I worked in a food plant, a bank, a retail store, a fast food chain, a daycare and a hotel.”
Gonzalez conjured memories of picking cherries as a child, spending as many as three hours a day before the start of the school day, and “Often in an environment where I was sprayed with pesticides, or working without access to a bathroom or water… it’s these formative moments and experiences that inspired me to want to be an advocate, a champion, for those people who I see myself in — even to this day — and especially for those who haven’t had a strong voice in government. They live in the shadows, and I did too – until I saw a path and climbed my way out.”
Gonzalez went on to outline her intentions to draw on my extensive experience standing up for progressive values and the underrepresented to my work serving the people of Seattle as one of two at-large (city wide) representatives.
In her final moments in Chambers, Gonzalez turned her attention to future Council colleagues. “My word is my deed,” said Gonzalez. “I have dedicated my life’s work to defending workers’ rights and will continue this fight – in the name of wage theft on behalf of a cook, or defending men and women against retribution in all its forms. I’ll continue my quest to stand up for dignity in the work place, and in my work here at city hall on behalf of workers…I will not back down from tackling tough issues or seeking solutions that build a stronger community.”
Born and raised in Central Washington in a Spanish-speaking migrant farmworker family, Councilmember Gonzalez relied on need-based grants and scholarships to attend community college and later Washington State University. She moved to Seattle in 2002 to attend Seattle University Law School. Gonzalez has served on various local, regional and national non-profit boards, including OneAmerica, OneAmerica Votes, National Council of La Raza, Northwest Area Foundation and Washington State Association for Justice.
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