SALT LAKE CITY — After hearing from nearly 20 candidates vying to fill the empty seat left by now state Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake City Council voted Tuesday night to pick a new District 4 council member.
Analia Valdemoros, economic development director of the nonprofit NeighborWorks Salt Lake and owner of the restaurant Argentina's Best Empanadas, got a vote of approval from all six council members Tuesday night, leading the council to decide to move forward with an official appointment instead of waiting until next week to chose among three finalists.
"I'm extremely proud. I'm thrilled. I'm nervous," Valdemoros said shortly after taking the oath of office Tuesday night. "And I'm really, mostly grateful for the opportunity yet again that Salt Lake City has given me to be part of Salt Lake City."
Valdemoros, 37, rose to the top of 20 applicants, of which 18 came to Tuesday's City Council meeting to make their case as to why they should replace Kitchen, who left the council last month after winning a seat in Utah's Senate. She'll remain in the seat through the remainder of the term, until it's up for election again in November.
Valdemoros, an immigrant from Argentina who became an American citizen in August, wrote in her application to the City Council she has been a resident of Salt Lake City for 18 years, where she's gained extensive public planning experience.
She first came to Salt Lake City as in international student and worked as an intern for the city's economic development department under former Mayor Rocky Anderson.
She was later hired at the city's planning division and worked on "major master plans and zoning ordinances that have shaped our city and we can see the fruits today," Valdemoros wrote in the application. Meanwhile, she was working on a Master of City and Metropolitan Planning from the University of Utah.
Valdemoros also started a small company at the downtown Farmers Market, which led to her opening the culinary incubator kitchen Square Kitchen, which she co-owns.
Educated locally, while living far away from her native home, Salt Lake City raised me and was the only close family I had for some time. I truly epitomize the American dream, and share so many of common experiences with those of our community who have sacrificed so much in order to call Salt Lake City home.
–Analia Valdemoros, new Salt Lake City Councilwoman
"I have a deep understanding of community building and economic development from the perspective of a professional planner, city staff, the non-profit sector, and now from the other side of the counter, as an entrepreneur," she wrote in her application. "I know the ins and outs of the complexities of building a city, budgeting when resources are limited, and making the best of the circumstance I am put into."
In her speech in front of the City Council, Valdemoros said her "heritage and life experience uniquely qualify me," as a "30-something Hispanic immigrant woman" who became an American citizen just last year.
"Educated locally, while living far away from her native home, Salt Lake City raised me and was the only close family I had for some time," she said. "I truly epitomize the American dream, and share so many of common experiences with those of our community who have sacrificed so much in order to call Salt Lake City home."
She credited Salt Lake City with giving her opportunities to succeed, "despite my accent, despite my skin color, or my gender."
The Salt Lake City Council unanimously voted to approve Valdemoros, after one round of voting produced three top vote-getters. In that round of voting, Valdemoros got votes from all six council members, while Breanne Miller got five votes, and Ryan James Parker got four votes.
The council momentarily weighed whether to wait until next week to choose among the three top applicants, but after considering the fact that Valdemoros had already gained approval from all six council members, they decided against delaying the swearing-in.
After her swearing-in, Valdemoros hugged her husband as well as each council member before taking her seat for the first time.
When asked whether she plans to run in this fall's election for the seat, Valdemoros said she's "considering (it) very highly" and plans to make an official announcement soon.