Words by Jessica Rodriguez
Being “the first” at anything is never easy. It can be the first person on the dance floor or the first person to raise your hand in class. For Regina Romero life has been marked by these kinds of personal firsts. You see, Romero was the first in her family to vote, she was then the first to graduate from college. These days the pattern of firsts for Regina Romero are happening on a bigger stage. Making history for herself and the country along the way.
In November 2019 Romero became the first woman and first Latina mayor of Tucson, Arizona. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the daughter of immigrant farm workers would be here today starting a historic journey with you as your mayor,” she said at her swearing in on December 2nd.
Regina Romero, 45, is the youngest of six children raised by immigrant parents in Somerton, New Mexico. She has spent most of her life helping others. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2000, she worked in Pima County getting interns jobs. She then turned her eye towards economic and neighborhood revitalization in the same area. Cutting her teeth with environmental justice issues. She raised the stakes when she ran for Tucson City Council in 2007 and won. Romero, who was the city’s first Latina city council member, spent 12 years leaving her mark. From getting Cesar Chavez Day (a personal hero) recognized as a local holiday to writing bills to create long-term jobs. Or revitalizing the city’s downtown area to protecting natural areas, Romero used her three terms to make an impact.
Her dedication to creating opportunities for all extends to her volunteer work. Romero is a co-founder of the Arizona Association of Latino Elected Officials and co-founder of Las Adelitas. The latter a local organization dedicated to getting Latinas into political office and public service. Everyone from the YWCA to the Mexican government have recognized Romero for her dedication and influence in creating opportunities for all.
With a certificate in government from Harvard in hand, she will be tackling her biggest challenge to date. That will be running one of the country’s 50 largest cities. Although Tucson has a population that’s 42% Latino, the city has not had a Latino mayor since 1875. As a Democrat in a traditionally red state, Romero’s policies are sure to conflict with colleagues and citizens alike.
The Mexican American mother of two is wasting no time getting to work. First up, a push to make Tucson an “immigrant inclusive” city. She told a local WBUR reporter that her first act as Mayor was approving a memorandum against the “Remain in Mexico” policy which passed unanimously. Her next big policy push is to address climate change. “Everything we want to work on with infrastructure will be in vain if we don’t start working on a climate action plan,” she told a local Arizona reporter.
The night of her Mayoral victory she wrote in an Instagram post that a “people powered movement that represents everyone” was responsible for her success. “This is the ethic that I will bring to the Mayor’s office – that only together can we continue building the economically vibrant, culturally rich, and inclusive city that we all love. This movement is open to everyone – whatever your background, whatever your party, whoever you voted for – let’s work together. We will always be one Tucson.”
With this in mind, how can she go wrong.