Juan Orozco is Ukiah's first Latino Mayor
December 7, 2020 — On Wednesday night, Ukiah City Councilman Juan Orozco became the city’s first Latino mayor. He took over from newly re-elected Councilman Douglas Crane, and will serve in the role for one year. Orozco has been on the council since 2018. Josefina Duenas, who was newly elected on November third, was seated on the Council for a four-year term.
Orozco was born in Mexico and came to Mendocino County with his sister as a young man. He worked in the vineyards and orchards of Anderson Valley and started learning English and taking classes at Mendocino College. He went on to Sonoma State, where he minored in Chicano and Latino studies. Then he got an emergency teaching credential at Dominican University, which allowed him to work as a substitute teacher.
We’ll hear from the new mayor and Roseanne Ibarra, who is the co-founder of the Mendocino Latinx Alliance and part of the recently created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, which succeeded in getting the county to publish covid information in Spanish and provide simultaneous translation of the press conferences with the county health officer. She’s also the director of community well-being for the county’s three Adventist hospitals. All these roles make her acutely aware of various disparities, especially now, that 65% of the known covid infections are among the county’s Latino population. It’s been a tough year. But there’s also been a groundswell of organization in the Latino community, with the formation of the task force and a new promotores de salud program, which trains Spanish-speaking community health workers to educate people about how to stay healthy and safe. Both initiatives are likely to remain relevant, even after the pandemic subsides.
With Orozco working to hire more bilingual staff and working to get city communications out in Spanish, both community leaders are hopeful that more of the population will feel adequately represented.