Monday marked a historic moment for Salt Lake City.
Its City Council now includes members who are mostly racial and ethnic minorities, and who mostly identify as LGBTQ. The new minority-majority council takes office just two years after the city elected its first minority member, Ana Valdemoros.
“This isn’t merely a demographic novelty, however,” Victoria Petro-Eschler, a Latina woman elected to serve District 1, said in a speech after taking her oath of office outside City Hall. “This diversity is important because of what it means for how work gets done in our city.”
Petro-Eschler took her seat in November, shortly after her election, due to former council member James Rogers’ resignation. She represents west-side neighborhoods, including Rose Park and Jordan Meadows. Petro-Eschler was sworn in by incoming council member Alejandro Puy and joined by three of her four young children.
“I promise, guys, I’m going to make the world a little bit better for you,” Petro-Eschler told her kids. “I look forward to making you proud, Salt Lake City.”
Puy, a gay immigrant from Argentina, was sworn in to serve the west side’s District 2 with his dog, Petunia, at his side. He dedicated much of his speech to his mother, Ana Maria Echegaray, who reared him at times as a single parent.
“I learned from her that I am the master of my own destiny,” Puy said. “... I see her struggle far more often than I ever expected in my neighbors. The working families of the west side are a force to reckon with, especially those mothers like mine.”
Puy now represents areas like Poplar Grove and Glendale. He praised the diverse faces, faiths and food found in those neighborhoods.
“It is a place that values diversity, change and my diverse background,” Puy said. “... The west side is a place where working-class families wake up every morning and build the present and future of our city.”
Darin Mano was appointed to represent District 5 in 2020 after Erin Mendenhall left the council to take office as mayor. Last November marked his first time being elected for a full term by residents in the East Liberty Park, Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.
“Representation matters. Salt Lake City has always been inclusive,” Mano said, “… But it’s different to be around allies and to be represented by people who have true, real, lived experience being a person from a diverse background.”
Mano, a gay Japanese American, also dedicated much of his speech to his family members, who were displaced from California during the World War II Japanese internment.
“They ended up in Utah,” Mano said, “due to racist federal policies.”
He took his oath of office while his partner, Kevin Randall, held a copy of the 1973 graduate school dissertation of Mano’s father.
“The title is ‘Minority Interests in Consolidated Balance Sheets,’ and I have no clue what that means,” Mano joked. “... But, to me, it means we live in a community, and my family was able to grow up in a community, that was safe, that was accepting of us even though we were different.”
Mano’s father, Ronald Mano, worked as an accounting professor at various Utah colleges and universities. He died of a heart attack last month.
“My dad taught me that through hard work, and perseverance,” Mano said, “you can achieve great things in your life, even if you come from very little.”
Council members Chris Wharton, from District 3, and Amy Fowler, from District 7, were also sworn in for a second term. They now rank as the most senior City Council members, and both identify as LGBTQ.
“I promise to continue doing all of the hard work, to be better than I was before,” said Fowler, who represents the Sugar House area.
Wharton, who represents neighborhoods like the Avenues and Capitol Hill, also recognized the milestone the newly represented council represents.
“This is amazing progress for our city and our state,” Wharton said. “... It says to the next generation of leaders here in our community, and anywhere else in the world: You, your family, your traditions and your talents are welcome. You have a place here in Salt Lake City.”