Topeka’s first Hispanic mayor vows to be inclusive

January 9, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka has sworn in its first Hispanic mayor.

Michelle De La Isla, 41, was sworn in Monday after winning the November election with 51.3 percent of the vote. She’ll replace Larry Wolgast, 77, who decided not to seek re-election after serving as mayor since April 2013, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported .

De La Isla, a Democrat, was born in New York and moved as a child to Puerto Rico with her family. She spoke during her campaign about overcoming circumstances such as homelessness and teen pregnancy, and receiving her degree from Wichita State University.

The new mayor was executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity between 2010 and 2015, until she took on a full-time position as a diversity and inclusion representative for Westar Energy. She plans to continue holding that position while serving as mayor.

De La Isla said she asked others at her swearing-in ceremony to join her at the front of the City Council chambers to show that she can’t run the city alone.

“I need all of you to work on this community,” she said.

Monday’s ceremony also included swearing-in ceremonies for six council members. De La Isla’s council seat will be taken over by Mike Padilla, who served more than 30 years with the Topeka Police Department.

De La Isla and rest of the council unanimously voted that day to approve a resolution setting Topeka’s agenda for the 2018 Kansas legislative session. The measure calls for the city to address issues such as abandoned housing and mental health funding.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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