Long Beach reached a milestone Tuesday when the City Council appointed six new women to city boards and commissions, tipping the overall balance of power to women for the first time in the city’s history.
Women now make up 52 percent of the city’s 26 active commissions, committees and boards, an achievement Mayor Robert Garcia described as historic.
The unanimous decision by the City Council ensures “that women have a seat at the table, that they are being heard, and that their ideas and their important contributions to the community are being implemented at our level of government,” Garcia said.
Longtime North Long Beach resident and business owner Hilda Gaytan was among the newly-appointed women Tuesday. She hopes other women, as well as immigrants—she was undocumented for a time after coming to the United States from Mexico—will see her as an example.
“I’m pretty sure that there is always someone looking up to you and I hope that someone there has a dream and if they see me they can say ‘If she can do it I can do it’,” said Gaytan, 60. “I would like to be a role model for those kids and they can see there is nothing that can stop them if they really want to do something.”
Gaytan said working low-wage jobs, including in the garment industry, when she first came to America at 30 led her to discover the hardships others faced and spurred the need to help others.
“But I couldn’t do much at that moment, so I promised myself I would do something,” she said.
She enrolled in classes at Compton Community College in her 40s, became a student senator for the California Community College system, and eventually studied sociology and urban planning at UC Irvine.
Gaytan helped organize the Hamilton Neighborhood Association, and most recently the Coalition for a Healthy North Long Beach. She is also part of the Lions Club and has been involved in numerous community projects like hosting health fairs, beautifying schools and donating hundreds of glasses to residents.
“If you are not at the table, then you are (probably) on the menu,” Gaytan said of why it’s important to be civically engaged. “It doesn’t matter if the table is small, you have to be at the table.”
Gaytan was appointed to serve on the Sustainable City Commission, which advises the council on environmental issues.
The city’s commissions, advisory bodies and boards deliberate on a range of issues, including the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Airport, technology, personnel, pedestrian safety and planning and development.
Some positions include certain requirements like being a resident of a certain district, being an expert in a certain field or even being a mother of a child under age 21, as is the case for one position for the Commission on Youth and Children.
Applicants can either apply on their own or be recommended by city officials and all are appointed by the mayor.
With Tuesday’s appointment, the total number of commissioners is now 219, including 114 women and 105 men, according to Tyler Curry of the mayor’s office. Fourteen of the commissions are majority female and every commission has at least one female member.
Those interested in applying for a commission can find more information here.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated Hilda Gaytan graduated from UC Irvine.
Stephanie Rivera covers immigration and the north, west and central parts of Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.
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