A Profile of 2 Mayors: Finding Common Ground

by Gabby Moraleda, MA Economics(cand.)

Filipino Americans are moving quite fast into mainstream politics-getting elected to top positions in local governments. Such is the case for 2 Bay Area cities - Milpitas and Hercules.

Located at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay with a land area of 13 square miles and home to several IT bigwigs such as Cisco, KLA Tencoor and LSI Logic is the city of Milpitas. The city was created in 1954 as a general law city operating under the City Council/City Manager form of government. It has a diversified resident and well educated population of 70,000 with Filipino Americans accounting for 15%. The average household income is $98,979. Homeownership is at 65% with a median home value of $ 745,000. Heading the city is Mayor Jose Esteves. "Joe" as he is commonly called got elected again (after a break) in 2010. An entrance and college scholar, Joe graduated from the University of the Philippines with several degrees namely -- 2 bachelors degree - Civil and Industrial Engineering and an MBA. He is an IT expert and married to Susan and has a lovely daughter named Irene.

On the northern tip of the Bay Area,16 miles north of Oakland and with 6 square miles of land and 12 square miles of water is the city of Hercules. A bit older, the city was formed in 1900. Its population is estimated at 25,000 with Asians at 45% . The median household income is at $ 88,000 with 79% living in owner occupied units and 20% in rental units. It is where Bio-Rad laboratories , a biotech company which does life science research and clinical diagnostics, is located. The city elected its first Filipina American mayor in Myrna Lardizabal de Vera. Myrna grew up in Cebu and graduated BS Architecture from the University of the Philippines. She worked in several architectural and engineering firms before forming her own insurance company. Married to Manuel, they have 3 sons Mark, Christian, and Emmanuel. De Vera is active in various community organizations.

Separated by several miles, the two cities seem to share some striking similarities. Compared to the major cities, both cities are relatively smaller in land area. They have a young population base with median incomes way beyond the poverty level. Unemployment and housing occupancy rates are a lot better than the average for California. The cities are headquarters to semiconductor, networking and biotech icons. And, both have energetic Filipino-American mayors. What's the common ground - or -- is there's one?

Is it ethnicity? Well. Is it because both mayors have great work ethics and share a passion to serve their constituents? Probably. Or is it because they graduated from the same school - University of the Philippines? Take your pick. Whichever one you choose, to me, one thing is clear - they're committed to excellence - the UP way. Let's wish them the best.