El Cerrito’s first Filipino-American and LGBT councilmember became the city’s first Fil-Am and LGBT mayor on Tuesday, December 19 during the reorganization of the city council at El Cerrito City Hall.
In all of the city’s 100 year history, Gabriel Quinto is the third mayor of color. Those before him were El Cerrito’s first African American city council member and mayor Letitia Moore who served in 2004 and 2008, and Chinese-American Mayor Ann Cheng who served in 2011 as the first Asian American to hold the position as well as the youngest.
Of the new position, Quinto told the Asian Journal in an email that he is “humbled and honored to be the first Filipino-American mayor and the first LGBT mayor in El Cerrito,” given that the city has always been a “melting pot” and “diverse and inclusive city.”
“As mayor of El Cerrito, I know that there are not many Fil-Am, Asian-Pacific Islanders (APIs) and LGBT Mayors in California,” he added. “With my leadership I hope to inspire a new generation of Fil-Ams, APIs and LGBTs to represent their communities. It’s important to represent and an honorable way to give back to your community.”
Born in Berkeley, California, Quinto went on to graduate from El Cerrito High School in 1979.
Quinto then briefly went down to Southern California to study at Long Beach State University where he graduated with his B.S. in Radio, TV, and Film in 1983.
Quinto’s late father Santiago, and his mother Isidra, are originally from the province of Pangasinan, Philippines.
Santiago Quinto, was in World War II where he served in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Filipino Battalion in the Battle of New Guinea.
Before being elected into council in December of 2014, Quinto had already built experience in public service through political and community empowerment volunteer work. His resume includes working with the Sierra Club Bay Chapter, the League of Women Voters of West Contra Costa County, and as an Obama delegate in 2012. He was also an Alternate of the Marin Clean Energy Board.
In El Cerrito specifically, Quinto has served as a member of Human Relations Commission and the Committee on Aging. He is also involved as Council Liaison to Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, the League of CA Cities/Environmental Policy Committee, the Association of Bay Area Government as a delegate representing El Cerrito, and the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee.
Quinto also serves on the Executive Board of the East Bay Division – League of CA CIties; is an Executive Board Member of the API Caucus and LGBT Caucuses of the League of CA Cities; is on the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter in which he represents San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties; and is the Vice President of the West Contra Costa County League of Women Voters.
He is also the elected Delegate on the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County representing West Contra Costa County.
Diverse team backing him up
Aside from being the first Fil-Am to become mayor of El Cerrito, Quinto was sworn in by fellow Fil-Am, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Benjamin T. Reyes II. Reyes was the first ever Fil-Am judge to ever serve on the Contra Costa County bench, and was the second Fil-Am judge to serve in the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties.
Assuming role of Mayor Pro Tem is Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, El Cerrito’s first biracial councilmember. Pardue-Okimoto is African-American and Caucasian.
Quinto told the Asian Journal that among his priorities is building affordable housing for “teachers, students, seniors and people with disabilities.”
“This is a regional problem, not just an El Cerrito problem. We need to find creative ways to fund these projects, so the 15 housing bills that were passed by the Legislature in Sacramento will help give cities the tools to do so. We are in the process of creating a committee to change our city from a General City to a Charter City. This will give my city more local funding to build affordable housing. I plan to put this on the November 2018 ballot, and to let our residents decide,” he said.