Commentary: Time for a millennial Latina immigrant on the Salt Lake City Council

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ana Valdemoros, owner of Argentinas Best Empanadas, leads a class on making gnocchi at her Salt Lake City restaurant, Wednesday October 11, 2017.

About five months ago, Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros took the oath of office as the first Latina in Salt Lake City’s history to become a City Council member.

Although 21 well-qualified candidates submitted applications expressing their interests in the position, Valdemoros was unanimously chosen by the City Council to replace Derek Kitchen, who left the District 4 seat to serve in the Utah State Senate.

Valdemoros, a homegrown planner educated by the City and Metropolitan Planning Department at the University of Utah, formally launched her political campaign on April 19 to retain her seat as the District 4 City Council member.

“I understand city planning, small business, and sustainability practices that lead to a better city for future generations. I am somebody that rolls up their sleeves and works to bring practical solutions to get the job done,” Valdemoros told friends, family, and supporters. “I want to continue to fight alongside my peers, city professionals, and the citizens of District 4 for the many issues that I’ve been working on for our city.”

Valdemoros is a former employee of the city, has worked in the non-profit sector, and is an entrepreneur — all experiences that give her a unique and valuable perspective. She formerly served as an intern and then a city planner for Salt Lake City from 2005 to 2014, where she ran various projects including the Westside Master Plan, North Temple Grand Boulevard Plan, Transit Station Area Zoning District, Mid-block Alleyways Plan, and Outdoor Design Dining Guidelines.

From 2014 to 2016, Valdemoros worked with NeighborWorks Salt Lake, a community development corporation focusing on the west side. As an economic development director, she collaborated closely with the River District Chamber and the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency to improve the businesses in the area.

Passionate about business development, in July 2016, she started a company in her own district: Argentina’s Best Empanadas. Starting her own business was not enough, Analia wanted to help others start and run businesses, too. This is why in the summer of 2018 she co-founded Square Kitchen, an incubator kitchen located in the Poplar Grove neighborhood.

In addition to her work, Valdemoros has a long history as a public servant. She served in the Salt Lake City’s Business Advisory Board and the Food Policy Task Force with the Sustainability Department.

At her campaign launch, Valdemoros expressed that she is “running to retain the District 4 seat because the decisions the council makes today need to be made with several perspectives in mind in order to have a balanced and fair outcome for the entire city.”

Valdemoros’ background as an immigrant who became a citizen after living in Salt Lake City for 19 years, studied at the University of Utah, started her own businesses, worked for the state and the non-profit sector will certainly resonate with voters.

Could 2019 be the year Salt Lake City elects a millennial Latina immigrant to the Salt Lake City Council? I think so! When I first moved to Salt Lake City, I chose to live in District 4 for its density, walkability, abundant destinations and the diversity of its residents. I understand that District 4 is about 30% millennial, about 17% foreign born, about 5% naturalized citizens and about 27% of those who are foreign-born are from Latin America.

But more importantly, Utah is one of the top states to start a business and to welcome refugees and immigrants. We need people in office that are reflective of these values and that understand sustainable development from an economic, environmental, and social perspective.

As our city and state grow, we need to create spaces that improve our region’s quality of life and provide access to all—regardless of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic status and so on. Supporting Analia Valdemoros for City Council is another step in the right direction.

Ivis Garcia | The University of Utah

Ivis García, Ph.D, AICP, is an assistant professor in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at The University of Utah.