Text and photos by Lydia V. Solis
State Treasurer John Chiang administers oath of office to Sierra Madre mayor.
Photo by Lydia V. Solis
Sierra Madre, CA – Rachelle Sumagaysay-Pastor Arizmendi made history (again) as the first person of color to be sworn in mayor of this city, selected by the members of the Sierra Madre City Council during their April 25 meeting. An educator and veteran non-profit administrator, Arizmendi first held a city council seat here, as one of two winners and the first Asian, at the April 8, 2014 elections. The Sierra Madre City Council is comprised of five members elected to four-year terms, so Arizmendi is up for re-election next year.
“It really is something to be humbled about, something to be honored about, that residents of Sierra Madre have enough faith in me to take this position,” Arizmendi stated. “It’s a badge of honor, at the same time it’s a responsibility – so I’m going to do my best to represent the Filipinos, whether it’s in our city or California or throughout the United States.”
Born in Carmel, CA, Rachelle is the daughter of Franklin Pastor from Laoag, Ilocos Norte, and Ofelia Sumagaysay-Pastor from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. She’s a graduate of San Diego State University where she earned two Bachelor’s degrees prior to pursuing her Master’s degree at Eastern Illinois University. She continues to hold her Registered Dietitian designation and has taught Nutrition courses at Pasadena City College. She and her husband Fili, and their dog Madison, have resided in Sierra Madre, also known as ‘Village of the Foothills,’ for over 10 years.
Sierra Madre, with a population of 11,000, nine percent of whom are Asians, is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest. Pasadena and Altadena are to its west with Arcadia to its south and east. It is known as ‘Wisteria City,’ home of a 115 year-old wisteria vine.
“This is still a city where people say hello to each other on the streets,” she beamed with pride, “it’s still a city where you can walk at 10:30 at night and still feel safe; and still walk down to the local produce market and get food and people remember what you got the day before.” She’s determined to maintain the quality of life in their city, preserve what they have now and continue to keep her hometown safe and friendly.
Rachelle is the Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer of PACE (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment), a non-profit community development organization that serves over 40,000 people every year in the areas of job training and employment, business development, early childhood education, financial education and asset building, energy and weatherization.
“It’s probably, I would say, where my heart is – serving the people,” she said.
She oversees a budget of close to $30 million and a staff of 300 employees. In her previous capacity at PACE, she held the position of Education Project Director for 16 years. She was also the Executive Director for 2-1-1 California (an affiliate organization of the United Ways of California). But Rachelle finds time to have fun – she enjoys traveling and outdoor activities, reading and country line-dancing.
At the last council meeting as Mayor Pro Tem, Rachelle thanked Mayor Gene Goss who in turn commended her for her professionalism. She also thanked her family and the community and noted that the coming year would be “challenging” as the council tackles various issues including budget cuts and water infrastructure. “I’m confident though,” assured the new mayor, “that with the leadership of our new city manager and our dedicated city staff, we will be able to persevere as they carry out the charge of the council.”