Disability community activist Nikki Villavicencio has won a seat in the Maplewood City Council. She topped the city council race by garnering 28.6 percent of the vote, followed by Rebecca Cave who drew 26.1 percent. Incumbent Sylvia E. Neblett received 25.1 percent while Garrett Krueger trailed with 19.5 percent.
Villavicencio has advocated for equity issues to multiple levels of government for more than a decade. Priorities for her upcoming term include growing a sustainable environment, making policies inclusive to families and local businesses and bringing back public comments to city council meetings.
“I was so shocked, now I’m starting to realize it’s a real thing,” Villavicencio told KSTP-TV. She takes office in January.
In 2018, Villavicencio lost a council race by just five votes in a recount, but this time around, she gathered 700 more votes than the next candidate.
“This means a lot to people with disabilities, and marginalized people,” Villavicencio said.
Villavicencio uses a wheelchair to get around. She was born with a rare congenital joint condition known as arthrogryposis. She’s been active at the local state, regional and federal government levels. Her post recent municipal post has been as a member of the Maplewood Parks and Recreation Commission.
“What has been heavy on my mind, is the fact that I do sit on the shoulders of folks with disabilities who have come before me in Minnesota,” Villavicencio said.
She and volunteers with Neighbors for Nikki waged an energetic campaign. But some future constituents made thoughtless comments.
“When I was door-knocking, people would very bluntly ask me, ‘Why would somebody like you want to run for office,'” she recalled. “I say to them ‘If I can make the community accessible to me, and people like me, it’s going to be more accessible for the moms with strollers, and the senior citizens who want to walk to the grocery store.'”
Villavicencio hopes her victory can inspire everyone to try and create change in their community.
“Everybody has the right to be seated at the table of power,” she said. “When we have more voices, we become more diverse and have better solutions at that table.”
(Source: Pioneer Press, KSTP-TV)