It took San Mateo County 167 years to elect a Latina supervisor. This is her story

Luz Pena Image
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Meet Noelia Corzo, San Mateo County's 1st Latina Supervisor
ABC7 News continues to celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month featuring Noelia Corzo, who made history as the first Latina supervisor in San Mateo County.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- We continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month featuring a San Mateo County resident who made history as the first Latina supervisor in that county.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena met with Supervisor Noelia Corzo in the neighborhood where she grew up and represents now.

Noelia Corzo: "This neighborhood is the North Central neighborhood. We are the King Center. I learned how to swim here and I spent a lot of my time."

Luz Pena: "When you see it now, what do you see?"

Corzo: "I see my home. I see the community that raised me."

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At San Jose State University, Dr. Magdalena Barrera and Dr. Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales shared their new book 'The Latinx Guide to Graduate School.'

As the daughter of working class immigrants from Guatemala, this community embraced her and witnessed some of the hardest moments of her life. Decades before she even dreamt of becoming a government official.

"If you asked 7-year-old me I would have said to be a veterinarian. When I was a teenager, I couldn't even think about my future because I went through something really devastating. That was the loss of my brother. My brother lost his battle with depression when I was 16 and he was 22. I was a junior in high school. When that happened, because my mom didn't speak English very well and because she was absolutely devastated, I had to step up. I was 16 and I had to plan my brother's funeral. I had to make some really adult decisions," said Corzo.

Years later, her brother would become the motivation behind making mental health - one of the pillars of her campaign. Her son and her mom some of her main inspirations to run.

"I was thinking about my mom. My mom raised me as a single mom. She to this day cleans houses and she was a nanny," said Corzo, "And being a mom actually informed a lot of what I do. I want my son to be happy and to have all the opportunities that he deserves and some that I didn't have."

Pena: "What happened that you said, I need to run for supervisor?"

Corzo: "What happened was COVID. I was president of the school board in 2020 during COVID. I was a bilingual social worker. So, working with monolingual Spanish speaking families. All I saw was people suffering everywhere. I looked and I recognized how much power the county had to really help people during that time."

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Noelia Corzo attributes her win to her campaign efforts focused on the Latino and Asian communities. The ones she said many had forgotten.

We went inside the San Mateo County Supervisor's Chamber where Supervisor Corzo spoke about her responsibility as a government official.

Pena: "How does it feel to walk here knowing that you can make a difference?

Corzo: "It feels empowering and also like a really big responsibility that I take very seriously. When I see faces looking back at me of people that are inspired or passionate about an issue. It reminds me of why I'm in this seat."

A seat that she fills knowing that it took many to get her there.

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Including Ruben Barrales who paved the way in 1992 as the first Latino elected for the San Mateo Board of Supervisors.

In her office, we met her dad beaming with pride. When she was running for supervisor her family helped her campaign. Her dad said it was his responsibility to help.

Pena: "Why do you think it took over 100 years to elect a Latina in the board of supervisors?"

Corzo: "I think it's kind of a like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don't see people and especially women of color in higher elected office and then you don't think it's possible."

Supervisor Corzo hopes to open doors for others in public office.

Corzo: "Women, people of color, Latinas, Latinos - we belong in every single space where important decisions are made and if you don't have a chair, you bring one."

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