Newberg has a new city councilor in the District 2 seat and her appointment brings with it an important piece of history. Jules Martinez Plancarte was appointed to the council on Jan. 21, replacing outgoing councilor Elizabeth Curtis Gemeroy, and she makes history as the first Latina to ever serve on the council.
"I wanted to join the City Council because I am passionate about service and I'm invested in my community," Martinez Plancarte said. "Joining the City Council was a long-term goal I foresaw myself running for in a few years, but since this opportunity presented itself, I decided to apply."
Martinez Plancarte trained at the Capaces Leadership Institute in Woodburn, a nonprofit that aims to train the next generation of Latinx leaders with a focus on social justice work. At Capaces, she participated in a program called "People's Representatives" that promotes civic engagement in the Latinx community.
She also works for Unidos Bridging Community, a nonprofit that seeks to "advocate for Latino immigrant families and build bridges of support and understanding among Latino and non-Latino communities in rural Yamhill County," according to the organization's website.
Martinez Plancarte said she may be the first Latina to serve on Newberg's city council, but she "won't be the last." She is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, and she hopes to bring those values to her work as a councilor.
"I believe that I will be a great avenue to bridge the gap of trust and communication between the city council and the Latinx and immigrant community," she said. "Although the Latinx currently makes up about 15 percent of the population, one out of every four students are Latinx. Therefore, representation in our community is important because of our experience growing up in a bilingual and bi-cultural atmosphere."
Issues of import to Martinez Plancarte include transportation accessibility, affordable housing and safety. Having grown up in a low-income, immigrant household, she said she's experienced these issue firsthand and hopes to bring forward solutions that will help all Newberg residents.
"I will join the appropriate committees to learn about the work that has already been done to address these issues as well as contribute my own insight," Martinez Plancarte said. "In terms of diversity, equity and inclusion I will reach out to people who are also interested in working together to make Newberg a more inclusive city."
In addition to her work for various nonprofits, Martinez Plancarte has also served on the Newberg Visioning Committee and is currently on the board of Head Start of Yamhill County and the Yamhill County Board of Health.
While she admits that joining the council will be a learning curve – as it is for many who are appointed or elected – Martinez Plancarte said she is excited to get started and to serve the people of Newberg as best she can.
Restoring the public's trust in city officials in the wake of recent controversies – among them the Greg Patton lawsuit, squabbles with the police department and the constant shuffling of staff – will be one of Martinez Plancarte's primary focuses.
She said she hopes that having a fresh perspective will bring more civic participants into the fold and help the city change for the better.
"I am an optimist," she said. "I like to see the good in individuals. We all have different priorities but at the end of the day we are human and are looking for understanding and a helping hand.
"I believe the best way to restore the trust with the community is to have honest face-to-face conversations. Often, we make assumptions based on our own biases. I am willing to learn from the councilors and community members as well as share my knowledge and experience."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.