By La Prensa Staff
Never before has Toledo City Council seen two elected Latinos serve at the same time. But that will be the history-making norm for the next four years, as Theresa Morris and Adam Martínez were sworn in to serve new terms as district council members.
According to Ms. Morris, “you can count on one hand” the number of Latinos to ever serve on city council since Toledo’s founding in 1837, which makes this latest political accomplishment all the more important to both elected officials within the local Latino community.
For just the second time in the city’s history, the two-Latino representation on Toledo City Council reflects the city’s overall Latino population, which has hovered just above ten percent in the last two census cycles. Taylor Balderas was appointed to city council in 2006 to serve a few months alongside then-city council president Louis Escobar. However, Ms. Balderas but did not win the open seat in the special election that followed.
“I think it shows the amount of growth that our community has had, the engagement, and the support from the overall community,” noted Martínez. “I think the Toledo community, as a whole, is very welcoming. I think they really don’t care about race as long as you’re doing your job and that you’re being an advocate for the people.”
“It means everybody has a seat at the table. Everybody deserves to have a seat at the table. When you’re putting out materials, you want to make sure you’re putting them out in both Spanish and English,” said Ms. Morris. “You want to make sure people who may not have a (immigration) status feel comfortable calling the police so that ICE is not going to come after them. There really are so many things our community needs to have and it’s important we keep after policymakers and decisionmakers to know those needs.”
This is the second time Martínez has served on city council. He was elected to an at-seat in 2009. He ran unopposed this time for the opportunity to represent the second district on city council.
“It feels like déjà vu. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time,” he admitted. “I feel like this is my first time on council and I’m excited to serve. This time it’s in a little different capacity, but I’m still here to support our community.”
After both council members took the oath of office, Martinez nominated Ms. Morris to serve as city council president. She has been serving the past two years as city council president pro tem, which is essentially vice president, presiding at city council meetings in the president’s absence.
“I have known Theresa for decades and remain impressed by her commitment to public service,” Martínez told his council colleagues. “I hope we can make a little history today.”
That is exactly what Ms. Morris was seeking to do as the first Latina Toledo City Council president in the city’s history.
“Because a Latina has never held a leadership post in the city of Toledo, specifically on city council,” she explained before the vote. “It’s time. It’s time. It’s been a long time since 1837 (when Toledo became a city) and it’s time for a Latina to represent our constituency and show that there are opportunities for leadership in Toledo.”
But two of her city council colleagues also had designs on becoming city council president, each receiving a nomination in two rounds of voting by council members. During the second vote,
Carrie Hartman won approval from a divided city council for a two-year term as president.
“That’s always the hard part in the political life is having external forces that come into play and unfortunately, really can sometimes muddy the water for merit-based advancement,” lamented Ms. Morris about the outcome.
But both Latino city council members maintain they will remain staunch advocates for members of their own heritage while serving their district needs.
“My primary responsibility is for the district, but my community is my community. They have been here for me from the very beginning, and I’ll be there for them until the end. It’s a balance,” said Martínez.
Some the issues involved include bilingual information, both online and in print, as well as cultural competence in city government.
“I think they’re working on it,” said Ms. Morris.