From San Francisco Examiner

Redwood City’s first Latina mayor hopes to engage others

Katie Worth – Jan 22, 2012

Two out of five people living in Redwood City are Latino. But until Alicia Aguirre, only two or three had ever served on its city council, according to her research.

It’s no surprise that Aguirre’s rise in local politics has Latin leaders thrilled. After six years on the city council, she was recently selected to be mayor. The term will last two years, until the next election cycle in 2014.

“This is a big step for Latinas and Latinos on the Peninsula,” said Jorge Jaramillo, president of the Redwood City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “When you have these role models, more people will get the power to say, I want to run for city council or serve on a city commission.”

Aguirre has been a professor of Spanish and English at Cañada College for more than 20 years. She grew up in Detroit, where her father immigrated from Mexico to work for the auto industry.

She credits him and her mother with her penchant for civic engagement. Even when her parents struggled to pay their bills, the family remained active with church, immigrant organizations and nonprofits.

When work brought her to the Peninsula, she decided it would be a good place to raise children, and took the position at Cañada. She became interested in the school board at her sons’ district, and over many years became a leader in the local education community. In 2005, when Ira Ruskin left the City Council to join the state Assembly, Aguirre was chosen out of several candidates to replace him.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon has known Aguirre since the mid-1980s, long before she became involved in politics. Gordon gushed about the new mayor’s chops for the job, including her “great intellect and great compassion.”

“And candidly, we need more women, and particularly Latinas, to be engaged in our political process.”

Why there are so few people of Aguirre’s demographic in politics is something she has given thought. But she hopes her own story will provide inspiration for people to become more engaged politically.

“It takes people seeing other people like themselves in a position of leadership to feel empowered to do the same,” she said.

As to whether her career may have a higher trajectory than Redwood City’s City Council, Aguirre was circumspect.

“Right now I’m just really excited to have been chosen for mayor and looking forward to doing the best job possible,” she said.

Alicia Aguirre’s career

  • Professor with the English Institute and Spanish departments of Cañada College since the late 1980s
  • Served on the boards of Mount Carmel School and Garfield Charter School
  • Served as trustee and president of Redwood City Elementary School District
  • Appointed to the city council in January 2005, re-elected in November 2005, 2007 and 2011
  • Chosen to be Redwood City Mayor from Dec. 2011 through Nov. 2013

Second Annual Chanukah Festival in Downtown Redwood City

The Chabad of MidPeninsula presents the
Second Annual Chanukah Festival in Downtown Redwood City

Thursday, December 22 from 5:30 – 6:45 pm
On Broadway in front of Courthouse Square

Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre and California State Senator Joe Simitian will join in to help light a Grand Menorah, and everyone will enjoy Chanukah Music, Chanukah Latke, Arts and Crafts, Live Entertainment for the Kids, and more!

The entire community is invited to come join in this celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, and to help spread some extra joy and warmth into the world at the Second Annual Chanukah Festival in Redwood City.

The festival is open to all and admission is free. For more information call 650.232.0995 or email, or visit

Go to and fill out the RSVP form – that’ll register you for a chance to win a Flip video camera!

Also, check out this article about the menorah.

Alicia Aguirre gets Re-elected to the Redwood City Council

Aguirre, Bain, Foust, Pierce keep Redwood City seats

Daily News 11/9/11

Facing only one challenger who barely raised any money to wage a campaign, four longtime Redwood City council incumbents easily retained their seats in Tuesday’s election.
With all 4-0 precincts reporting, Vice Mayor Alicia Aguirre and council members Ian Bain, Rosanne Foust and Barbara Pierce collected enough votes for another term. Aguirre led the pack with 2-3.5 percent of the vote.

The challenger, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul McCarthy, came in fifth with 1-2.9 per-cent of the vote. He had campaigned on a platform of ensuring community safety, managing growth, improving the economy and prudent city budgeting.

Although McCarthy had a Face-book campaign page and attended house parties and candidate fo-rums, he did not do any fundraising to distribute campaign literature or erect lawn signs.

Pierce, currently in her 1-2th year on the council, said in her campaign statement that she was “proud to have played a leadership role in making Red-wood City a more vibrant community.” Foust, CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, said the city benefits from her business acumen. Bain said he prioritizes city requests from the “average citizen.” Aguirre, a college professor, said she has worked to “create a community where everyone can afford to live, work and raise a family.”

In addition to maintaining a balanced budget, the city council faces many challenges related to development. Revitalization of the city center has been gaining momentum since the council approved a downtown plan in January that allows taller building and more offices and homes. The council eventually will decide whether to permit development of a mini city on the Cargill salt flats.

Redwood City incumbents keep seats

Daily Journal 11/9/11
Michelle Durand

All four Redwood City councilmembers seeking re-election retained their seats handily, shutting out the one challenger to their campaigns, while two tax measures and a charter change passed.

Of the four, Alicia Aguirre came out on top with 4,058 votes, or 23.5 percent. Barbara Pierce followed with 3,831 or 22.2 percent, Ian Bain with 3,597 or 20.9 percent and Rosanne Foust with 3,536 or 20.5 percent of the votes. Challenger Paul McCarthy received 2,217 votes, or 12.9 percent, according to final semi-official results from the San Mateo County Elections Office.

“I’m really excited and appreciative,” said Pierce who has already served 12 years on the council.

Pierce said her victory was sweetened by the return of all four incumbents to the council because it allows a “continuity of vision” along with some new initiatives for economic development.

Continuing their work was a theme for all four incumbents during the campaign with a particular emphasis on the ongoing revitalization of downtown.
Bain, Foust and Aguirre did not return calls for comment.

McCarthy, a 44-year-old sergeant with the California Highway Patrol, purposely chose not to raise money or use traditional campaign methods like lawn signs and fliers.
McCarthy could not be reached for comment.

Both tax measures on the Tuesday ballot also succeeded. A transient occupancy tax increase from 10 percent to 12 percent received 72.9 percent of yes votes. The change is estimated to bring in an extra $640,000 annually. The city last increased its hotel tax in 2003 from 8 percent to 10 percent, placing it in the middle range of the county’s 15 cities which levy such a tax.

The increase in the business license tax will add an estimated extra $825,000 annually to city coffers by fiscal year 2014-15. The measure passed with 55.1 percent — 3,406 yes votes to 2,776 no — unlike two years ago when a similar effort failed. It needed a majority to pass.

The difference is the amount of understanding the public had about the measure, Pierce said.

“I think [previously] we didn’t really do as much outreach as we needed to do so that the public understood the value. It’s always hard for people to vote for new taxes,” Pierce said.
Pierce donated to the committee “Redwood City Residents to Protect City Services” which raised more than $6,000 to support the tax measures. Aguirre also gave money.

Voters also approved changing the city charter so officials can consider how a developer wants to use city land instead of simply how much money is offered. The charter proposal, which lets officials consider maximum public benefit when selling or leasing property, essentially flew under the radar leading up to Election Day but still nabbed 61.2 percent of favorable votes.

The recommendation was not hitched to a particular parcel but stands to be beneficial for Block 2 of the cinema/retail project. If the city sells the parcel, considered part of the city’s gateway, the council can now consider what exactly they want there. The city charter has been amended 15 times since its 1929 adoption, the last being in 2009.

Council Incumbents Handily Defeat Challenger

Incumbents Aguirre, Pierce, Bain and Foust remain in their seats on the city council.

Redwood City Patch 11/9/11
Stacie Chan

By a sizeable margin, the four city council incumbents edged out challenger Paul McCarthy to retain their seats on the city council.

Aguirre received the most votes by collecting the support of 4,048 residents, while the 3,831 votes in favor of Pierce made her the second most popular candidate and Bain edged out Foust by 61 votes to become the third leading vote getter.

The four incumbents will each serve another four year term, where they will make difficult decisions regarding the city budget, the proposed Cargill Saltworks development, High-Speed rail, and how to provide more housing.

This is Pierce’s last term, since the city has a four-term limit on city councilmembers. This is Bain’s and Foust’s third term and Aguirre’s second full term.

Listen to how Alicia Aguirre, Ian Bain, Rosanne Foust, and Barbara Pierce envision the city in four years.

McCarthy was not immediately available for a comment.

Some may attribute McCarthy’s shortcoming to his lack of a traditional campaign, with Mayor Jeff Ira calling it “sad.”

Resident Catherine Fraser said in a comment on this Patch article, “What I don’t like about Mr. McCarthy is the fact that he’s not running a campaign.”

While the incumbents spent an average of $13,172 on their campaign, McCarthy spent $54 on business cards. He also held a “Meet the City Council Candidate” event on Oct. 28.

He said by accepting campaign donations from anyone, businesses, unions or even friends, there would be an inherent debt to that person that could affect his objectivity. McCarthy also said that any lawn signs would just end up in a land fill, contributing more waste.

“I think he ran a great, clean campaign, and I have a lot of respect for him,” Bain said. “I really appreciate him putting his hat in the ring.”

But McCarthy and the incumbents all invested a great amount of time as well. They attended multiple candidates’ forums, filled out endorsement forms, met with community members, and had a great online and social media presence. The incumbents also put out mailers and calls reminding residents to vote.

“It isn’t easy,” Foust said. “But you put yourself out there when you want something and you work hard.”

A formal induction of the city councilmembers will take place on Dec. 5, when the city clerk will hold an election amongst the seven candidates to select the new mayor.

Results: Incumbents Will Keep Seats On Council

Redwood City Patch 11/8/11