New Bethany council member "just wanted to work for equality"
From her seat at the far end of the Bethany City Council bench, Amanda Sandoval could see that nearly half of the audience in the city hall chamber included her family, friends and members of the local Hispanic community.
The importance of her Feb. 12 election to the council had finally set in.
“This is what we were working for, this is all we wanted,” said Sandoval, who was administered her oath at her first council meeting last week.
“We wanted a lot of diversity and to be able to motivate people in the community to come out.”
Born in Oklahoma City, Sandoval, 24, grew up in a bilingual household with parents who had immigrated from Mexico.
“When she was younger and thinking about a career she was never worried about the money, she just wanted to work for equality,” said Maria Sandoval, Amanda’s mother.
Sandoval spent her teenage years in Bethany, the bedroom community of nearly 20,000 just west of Oklahoma City.
Established by early members of the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical denomination with one of its private universities located in town, Bethany grew from farmland to a suburb.
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Today, the region’s growing Hispanic community is moving into Bethany, where the eight-member city council was completely white — and nearly all male — until Sandoval won the Ward 1 seat with 67 percent of the vote.
“Ever since I’ve been involved (in politics) in college, I felt like it was part of my journey to represent those people who don't feel like they have a voice or who feel like they are underrepresented,” Sandoval said. “I wanted to be able to see legislators and politicians that reflect me.”
Changing the conversation
A 2018 graduate of Oklahoma State University, Sandoval has been active in various political causes, including voter registration drives and promoting immigrant issues.
Sandoval was also a member of the University of Oklahoma’s N.E.W. (National Education for Women's) Leadership program, a five-day intensive workshop to encourage undergraduate women to participate in politics and public service.
“We get excellent students in our program, but Amanda was of a higher level,” said Lauren Schueler, director of the N.E.W. Leadership program.
Schueler said Sandoval’s election to a small city council can have an immediate impact on municipal policy while also inspiring young women in the community.
“It’s sexy to talk about national politics ... but a lot of the real work is happening at the local level, such as city council and county level positions,” Schueler said. “For Amanda to start getting more active in her community and to now get elected, it starts to change the conversation about what’s possible, especially for young women of color.”
Sandoval ran as a representative of Bethany’s Hispanic community, even offering to translate for any Spanish-speaking resident who wanted to address the council.
But she also ran on a platform of improved infrastructure and attracting new retail business.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with businesses in Bethany who are not sure they can stay,” Sandoval said. “I want to figure out solutions to get them to stay and attract other businesses, because we don’t want to always have to go to Oklahoma City to eat or shop.”
Sandoval is one of four newly elected members of the Bethany city council, where pressing issues include the search for a new city manager and city attorney.
“We’ve got a lot of big decisions to make very quickly,” said Bethany Mayor KP Westmoreland.
Sandoval said she hopes to inspire marginalized members of the city to get involved in the city’s decision-making process.
“Whenever I would knock doors (during the campaign) there would be a lot of Hispanic people and it was exciting to see,” Sandoval said. “It’s really exciting to see Bethany growing in that way.”