by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Teresa Alonso Leon was named as a replacement pick by Mayor Kathy Figley for the vacant Ward 1 City Council position in Woodburn. The City Council will vote on the nomination at its Aug. 12 meeting. Woodburn’s newest city councilor comes from humble beginnings.

On Friday, Mayor Kathy Figley named Teresa Alonso Leon as her choice to fill the Ward 1 City Council seat left vacant May 31 by Horst Raustein. It will become official pending council approval Aug. 12.

Alonso Leon, 38, was born in Michoacán, Mexico and came to Oregon with her family when she was 4.

She moved to Woodburn during her middle school years and attended Woodburn and Gervais high schools for about three years before obtaining her high school equivalency through a federal program at the University of Oregon.

She has more than 16 years of experience working in social justice as well as public and nonprofit client service environments, according to her application filed with the city.

“It’s my way to give back to my community,” she said at last week’s town hall meeting, where she and two other candidates met with city councilors and community members.

“I had great support here at school from my teachers and administrators. Because of them, I was able to go off to college, gain new skills and have so many opportunities.”

The oldest of five children, Alonso Leon was the first person in her family to graduate from college and complete a master’s degree.

She received her Bachelor of Arts at Western Oregon University and just earned her master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University.

Additionally, she was director of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus.

“I ran a national scholarship program that was to help migrant students attend a four-year college,” she said.

The program helped first-year college students obtain the skills and knowledge that they needed to succeed in the university system. It was recognized by then-Portland Mayor Sam Adams as one of three programs in Portland doing phenomenal work in the Latino community, she said.

She also attended a four-week national training class to prepare Hispanic community leaders for positions that impact national public policy.

As part of this program, Alonso Leon attended a weeklong class in “Effecting Change through Public Policy and Management” at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“As a student coming from a migrant background, having the chance to go to Harvard was absolutely amazing,” she said. “While there, I got inspired to give back to the community and engage in public service.”

Despite Woodburn’s 60 percent Hispanic population, Alonso Leon will be the lone Hispanic voice on the council.

She will follow Anthony Veliz and Elida Sifuentez as the only Hispanic councilors in the history of the city.

“The fact that I’m Latina and speak Spanish it’s definitely important to bridge our city council and our community members,” she said. “Looking at the demographics of our community, I felt it was very important to take this opportunity and to build this bridge.”

Although Alonso Leon still needs majority council approval, Figley said last week that she would likely have unanimous consent before naming Raustein’s successor.

Two other candidates, Colin Brown and Gerald Kernodle, also applied for the Ward 1 vacancy.

Figley said her main consideration was appointing someone who had the willingness to learn and grow on the job.

“I was pleased to be able to interview three excellent candidates for the Ward 1 vacancy,” Figley said.

“Teresa, however, stood out as a Woodburn High School (student) who has returned home to serve her community. She is also a young professional who will bring some exciting new ideas to the table. I am looking forward to her contributions.”

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