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Lives of service

One passed away at just shy of 99, leaving a legacy of breaking barriers for women in Alhambra; the other, a remarkable 33-year-old Latino school board official, fell victim to an execution-style murder in Mexico. Monday’s City Council meeting concluded with a tribute to these two very different San Gabriel elected officials, Norma Yocum and Augustin “Bobby” Salcedo, who shared a common commitment to public service.

Yocum was the first female mayor of Alhambra, and either founded or was a board member of at least 20 local organizations. A 1963 LA Times profile described her as “a smiling, hazel-eyed woman with a keen knowledge of city politics, a liking for church work and a consuming interest in people.” Yocum recalled how her call to political action came two decades earlier when the city needed its first female policewoman. “Whenever women or juveniles were apprehended for some reason, county assistance had to be obtained because a policeman could not process them as they did males,” Yocum said. “We firmly believed that a city of Alhambra’s size needed a policewoman.” Six months after she was elected, the city hired one. Current mayor Steven Placido alerted the council of her death, saying, “She was a spitfire.”

While Yocum was part of a generation of women breaking into San Gabriel politics, Salcedo was among a new era of second-generation Latino politicians who are again reshaping the local political landscape. On December 30, the El Monte School Board Member was murdered while visiting his wife’s hometown in Durango, Mexico. His life, cut senselessly short, has provoked an international outcry about the wave of violence in Mexico. Council Member Luis Ayala, who asked for the tribute to Salcedo at Monday’s meeting, was among thousands who attended a memorial service at Mountain View High last week. “At the outset of his thirties he was overseeing his former teachers and administering structural changes to improve the classroom experience for the students in their charge,” Michael Jaime-Becerra, an El Monte native who explores the city in his fiction, wrote of Salcedo in a moving tribute in Zocalo. “Bobby was tremendously accomplished and, more importantly, he used his accomplishments to make a difference in the lives of the people around him. It seems to me that he somehow fit a lifetime of achievement into the short span of time that he was here.”

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