A Young Council Member Inspires Changes in San Pablo West County and Beyond!
by Matt Larson
Age is just a number, sure, but it’s also why we reached out to Abel Pineda who, at just 26 years old in January 2019, became the youngest city council member to ever serve the City of San Pablo.
“As a person who was born and raised in San Pablo, I personally care a lot about not just our city’s history, but also where it’s going,” he said. “I’m reinvesting in the community that helped make me who I am today.”
Even though he got the job at a young age, Abel had quite a bit of relevant experience with local government by the time he got elected. “I’ve been very involved in the community since I was a teenager,” he said. “I had previous experience working with elected leaders, local leaders, and civic leaders.”
Abel spent four years as the Principal Feld Representative for State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (now State Superintendent of Public Instruction), and Abel currently holds that same position with State Assemblymember Rob Bonta. So when Abel ran for the city council appointment, he already had a solid foundation of experience in dealing with the status quo.
Now, as an active member of the San Pablo City Council, his mission is clear: “I want to be able to connect people to the resources and opportunities that they need to be successful here, locally and regionally,” he said. “When those services don’t exist, we want to help create them.”
Abel has already started hosting Senior Scam Stopper seminars for the community, designed to share information from the state about how to protect our senior citizens from fraud and the like—an issue that he noticed was a problem quite a bit during his time on the legislature and performing constituent services.
On the opposite end of the population, he’s also got our local youth in mind; and having a young voice such as his own is a great way to keep them actively in the greater conversation. “We need to do more to be able to engage the young population; to let them know that their lives and experiences matter, and we’re doing that in many different ways.”
For example, via the San Pablo and WCCUSD Youth Commission, which he helped create back in high school, Abel has hosted groups of students to come to Sacramento and meet with state-elected representatives to advocate for themselves, and for what changes and improvements they’d like to see in their communities.
“We want to get young people interested and involved,” he said. “We’re encouraging them and empowering them to be able to use their voices and their experiences to change, challenge, and inform public policy.”
Support is critical if this is ever to be a possibility. Abel remembers how hard it was when he was a teenager. “As a young person myself, when I started getting involved at the age of 14, people thought it was ‘cute’ that I would show up to meetings,” he lamented. “But my voice needed to be respected just like anybody else’s, because I’m a part of this community too.”
You may often find yourself wondering how you can make a difference in this world, especially when watching the news or reading the local paper. One way to make a change is to run for office, as Abel has done. Another way, is to support your local community and help people like Abel make the most of their jobs.
Younger residents especially—if you or someone you know would make a great future community advocate or leader, forward this story to them or get them in touch with Abel directly.
“If there’s a way that I can help, or navigate you to the help you need, let me know,” he stated. He even offers you his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. “I genuinely do want to help! So help me help you. If I can’t help you, I’ll find somebody that can.”