Asmundson, Running for the Open Seat, Talks about Her Candidacy

Vigdis Asmundson already has a household name in Davis, thanks to her parents Vigfus and Ruth, both of whom are former Davis mayors—Ruth having served twice, in 2004 and 2008.  Vigdis was a finalist for the appointment to the seat vacated by Cindy Pickett and now she is running for the two year seat—which could be the last at-large election in the city of Davis.

She spent 19 years as a teacher before moving on to the California Department of Education.

“I have been involved in education for my entire career,” Asmundson told the Vanguard during an interview over Zoom on Monday.  “I love education, I love schools and I love students.”

During that time, she said, “I saw how important the decisions were in the lives of the teachers.”  There are things that can really support the teachers and then there are things that work against the teachers.

She believes the district “can really benefit from someone who has been in the classroom for so long.”

Vigdis Asmundson started in the Peace Corps out of college, working in community health and disease prevention.  She worked with educational groups in West Africa in Togo, and at a school in 2010 worked in Somaliland.

She also noted that her mother returned to Philippines as often as possible.

She explained that her mother was a huge inspiration to her village, “being one of the first people to go to college in her village and to get a PhD.  So we always make sure we go back to the school when we’re in the Philippines.”

In the US, her most recent teaching experience was in Fairfield—a very different experience from Davis.

“The school I was teaching in was 88 percent non-white,” she said.  “Eighty-three percent free and reduced lunch.  Thirteen percent English-language learners.”

Asmundson found the appointment process “fun,” getting a chance to look through her body of work “and thinking about all of the things I had that prepared me to contribute to these decisions.”

She enjoyed talking to parents, teachers and community members “and hearing about their thoughts.

“That has been so fun for me,” she said.

At the end, when she was a finalist, “The questions were so interesting, they really got at what are the challenges that are facing our schools and the priorities of the board and the direction they want to go.

“What can we do to be supporting our students, and our families and our teachers,” she said.

Her reaction to not getting selected was, “That was fine, you never really know what is going to happen.

“I was absolutely prepared to serve,” she said.  “But I knew it was a process.”

In terms of the petition, she said, “I was surprised.  That was a group of parents that was unrelated to me entirely.  I always appreciate that our voters in Davis want to (be) involved, engaged.”

She found it “heartwarming” to see so many people involved.  She said, “So many people, so quickly got this motivated to be a part of our process.”

She found it “astounding” that they were able to organize so quickly to pull off the petition drive.

“It really showed how much people care about our schools,” she said.

In terms of what made things different this time, she wasn’t so sure.  “I know that Davis is a very motivated community,” she said.  “It’s been very involved for a very long time.  We don’t have people that are going to stay quiet about things.”

She added, “I don’t want to second-guess the board’s decision in any sort of way, but I absolutely want to reward civic engagement and people being involved in the democratic process.”

Right now she is the only announced candidate for the seat.

For her, she said, “I knew I was going to run when I decided to seek the appointment.  I feel just as committed to wanting to serve my community now as I did then.  If the seat was open, then I’m still committed.”

Her decision to seek this seat as opposed to a four-year seat was relatively easy—“I don’t live in Area 2 or 5,” which are the two districts up for election, currently held by Alan Fernandes and Bob Poppenga respectively.  Bob Poppenga has already announced he won’t seek reelection and Alan Fernandes has not formally decided.

This will be the last full city election.

Vigdis Asmundson explained that her parents met when her father was Davis’ mayor in the early 70s.  She said that even when neither was a public servant, “they always had a sense of wanting to be involved in the community.”

“Even though my Dad wasn’t a politician when I was a kid, he really cared for Davis and always wanted the best for Davis,” she explained.

She said, “Their sense of service has absolutely made me who I am.”

She noted that all of her sisters still live in Davis.

“We are really deeply committed to the city,” she said.

One of the lessons she learned: “Everybody does have wonderful and important opinions. It is important for us to be able to hear all of our voices.”

She noted the current crisis has created huge levels of stress, and “it’s important for people to speak up and express how they’re feeling,” she said.

Vigdis Asmundson said that, as she was growing up in Davis, her mother was proudly Filipino and “really raised us to be proudly Filipino,” she said, “To be honest I did not—if I had experiences that were negative when I was a kid, I don’t think I would be able to recognize them.”

She did say, “As an adult I have had more racist experiences against me in Davis.”  She wasn’t sure if she was just able to recognize them better but she also said, “I do have friends that have told me as adults, that I grew up in Davis with, that have said yes things definitely happened to me when I was a kid.”

So far she is the only announced candidate for this position.  It will be on the November ballot.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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18 Comments

    1. Bill Marshall

      Think you’ll find those answers in the resume/questionnaire she submitted to the Board this spring as part of the application process…  don’t remember the date of when it as posted on the DJUSD website…

  1. Keith Echols

    Given today’s public health issues, I found this part of her background and experience:

     Vigdis Asmundson started in the Peace Corps out of college, working in community health and disease prevention.

    to be what caught my attention.

    1. Bill Marshall

      There are a lot of things in her spring resume/application that caught my eye, as did those of Klineberg…

      And, I’m very open to hearing what other candidates who emerge have to say… who knows?  Depending on the candidate, might vote for them… but if they didn’t apply in spring, would ask, “why now, not then?”

  2. Alan Miller

    Vigdis Asmundson already has a household name in Davis, thanks to her parents Vigfus and Ruth, both of whom are former Davis mayors—

    So, she’s sort of the Chelsea Clinton of Davis – well, in an alternate Universe where Hillary won in 2016 😐

    1. Bill Marshall

      I’m thinking, Alan, that the author deliberately added it, to generate comments like yours and KO’s, to wound the likelihood of Asmundson’s succeeding… and he appears to be succeeding…

      Am thinking he has another horse in the race (figuratively, and ……….).

      As for me, I’ll wait to see what the candidate field is, what their background (other than/despite of familial associations), positions, and apparent temperaments are… if someone votes for, or against, someone based on family history… that is a sad day for representative democracy…

      Please note David has not pointed out (nor, likely will) focus on genealogy of other candidates that may emerge.

      Here, will have to agree with some I almost never agree with… David appears to have an ‘agenda’ here.

      As of this moment, would lean towards Asmundson or Klineberg (who I don’t believe has ‘announced’ as a candidate..

      1. David Greenwald

        Probably because most of the other candidates didn’t have two parents who were mayors.  I met her for the first time yesterday and came away favorably impressed.

        1. Bill Marshall

          A)  Most folk in town know that…

          B)  Shouldn’t matter…

          C)  I stand by my previous post… you seem to be playing the ‘anti-entitlement card’ (that Alan and Keith appear to have picked up on)… you said previously (another thread), that you did not feel comfortable as to how to define those who are POC in part, White in part… you have an inherent bias?

          You did not focus on, nor provide links to her DJUSD application from spring…

          Altho’ you do not believe a white male person can do so, neither race nor gender will figure into my voting calculus in November… not sure you can say the same…

           

      2. Alan Miller

        the author deliberately added it, to generate comments like yours and KO’s, to wound the likelihood of Asmundson’s succeeding… and he appears to be succeeding…

        That sounds super conspiratorial.

        Am thinking he has another horse in the race (figuratively, and ……….).

        WM, you sure like to imply stuff.  I, and probably everybody else, have no idea what horse you speak of . . . but I’ll bet it’s a horse of a different color.  #rimshot!#

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CdVTCDdEwI

        1. Bill Marshall

          Keith O is absolutely right, Alan… Asmundson is running for the open, at-large seat… the last DJUSD election where there will be an at-large seat… we’ll know ~ the 14th if there is another candidate for the at-large seat… all other announced candidates to date are running for district-based seats… so, no, any inference has to be limited to the “at-large” seat… that was my intent, and the context of my previous comment.

          You got this one completely right, Keith O… we’ll have to see if others file for the at-large seat…

  3. Sharla Cheney

    Vigdis took a visible leadership role in opposing changes to GATE. Maybe her views have changed over the years, but she should address this.

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t recall her involvement in that battle and a google search didn’t turn up any hits, can you provide a link or backing evidence?

      1. Sharla Cheney

        I searched and also nothing popped up, so I’m wrong to say she lead a leadership role.  I know that she wrote letters based on her expertise and background as a GATE certified teacher.  As I remember, she was supportive of maintaining the program as is, at that time.  But then again Cindy Pickett was also of this mind, at that time.  For me, I would want her to address this and explain what her views are currently.  I think we are looking at potential substantial upheaval of the Davis school system in Davis – declining enrollment, impacts and fallout of COVID-19, etc.  We don’t need a board member who, when provided evidence of program failure or institutionalized discrimination, will support just continuing on.

        1. Don Shor

          We don’t need a board member who, when provided evidence of program failure or institutionalized discrimination, will support just continuing on.

          IMO we need an assessment of the board’s decision to slash the GATE program and the impact on students who would have been in GATE with the previous qualifying mechanisms, a review of how the program is faring now with reduced numbers, a review of how fully the district has trained teachers in differentiated instruction with respect to gifted students who are now in regular classrooms. But I suspect none of that will be forthcoming.
          The GATE opponents won. The program is half of what it used to be.
          I consider her advocacy for gifted students to be an asset. But it is likely that special programs aren’t going to be the major focus of board decisions for the next year or so. What we really need is some gimlet-eyed accounting types who can consider how the district can pare expenses and still retain teachers and keep programs, including GATE, strong.

  4. Sharla Cheney

    The program is half of what it used to be.

    The program is greater than what it was when mine and Don’s children were in GATE.  Same number of self-contained classes in elementary school and with an increase in Junior High strands, plus GATE identified elementary students clustered and offered differentiated instruction.  If you are basing it on just segregated, self-contained classes at the elementary school level, then it is half of what it eventually became.

     

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