Montebello's 1st LGBT, Latina mayor enters race for California State Senate

MONTEBELLO, Calif. (KABC) -- Montebello Councilwoman Vivian Romero, who was also the city's first LGBTQ mayor, has entered the race for California's 32nd State Senate district seat. The office is currently vacant after Democrat Tony Mendoza of Artesia resigned due to sexual misconduct accusations.

She was the first Latina and openly gay mayor of the city, but she has been active in the community for decades.

She said what led to her political involvement was "organic" and started with a string of burglaries happening in her neighborhood. Romero said it bothered her and organized people and police to discuss a way to stop the crime.

"People basically took back the neighborhood. I ended up in the front page of some newspaper and shortly after that I brought in a 5K, 10K run and a music festival," she said.

The day that she was doing the run and music event, she noticed the veterans' memorial was in poor shape. Her father was a veteran and seeing the memorial in disarray was tough. She began speaking with the city council, but they continually told her there wasn't enough money.

"I said, 'No, we've got to clean it up.' So I got a huge grant and I would say several hundred volunteers - the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the vets, disabled vets came (to help)," she said.

She led the effort to repair the Montebello veterans' memorial. She said she loves the people, sense of community, the small town feel and sense of love in the city. Recently, she has led efforts to rehabilitate the 60 Freeway.

But Romero wasn't always involved in politics. She was an artist, writing music for television show "The Shield" and managing musicians.

"Politics was an interesting thing because I never had a political bone in my body," she said. "It was all about music for me."

She added that her partner, Shannon, pushed her to step up further and unite her community. She said other stakeholders in the community also encouraged her to get more involved.

Romero was sworn in as mayor in December 2016 and has since termed out, remaining on the city council. She said she was proud to be the first LGBT mayor even though she didn't run on that platform.

"People accept you as long as you're making the right decisions and doing what's best for the community because that's who I work for. They elected me to make those decisions," she said.
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