Avina Gutierrez, one of Yakima’s first three Latina women to be elected to the city council, this week was promoted unanimously to mayor by her fellow council members, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Gutierrez is the first Latina to hold the mayor role, a position chosen by the council from among its sitting members.
Yakima voted in geographic districts for the first time last November after losing a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit said the citywide elections had violated the Voting Rights Act, and a federal judge agreed, putting a geographic district election in place. Though 40 percent of the city of Yakima is Latino, voters had never sent any Latino residents to serve on its city council until last November In 2008, Yakima attorney Sonia Rodriguez True was appointed to city council, but she was voted out of office in the subsequent election.
The court ruling threw open all the council positions and all seven of Yakima’s council seats were up for grabs. Several current council members opted not to run for re-election. The city has been currently appealing the ruling.
The Herald Republic also reported on Tuesday that the Yakima council also voted 6-1 to prioritize a state Voting Rights Act, which has been proposed by the Legislature in past years but has yet to pass both chambers. Last year’s proposal in the state House would have created an alternative process to the federal courts to address Voting Rights Act disputes.