Monday Morning Thoughts: Yolo County Can Do Better on Diversity

The Judges of The Yolo County Superior Court prior to Dan Wolk’s 2020 appointment

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Up until 2023, Yolo County had really trended in a bad direction at the county level in terms of diversity of elected and appointed officials.

In 2024, we shouldn’t be having to talk about gender equity for crying out loud.  But for reasons, I don’t really understand both Governor Brown and Governor Newsom—who have appointed some of the most diverse judges and other political appointments in history, threw a string of white men onto the Yolo County bench.

That finally changed in 2023.  Governor Newsom not only appointed two women—one of them of color—to the bench in Yolo, but he even moved Pete Williams to Sacramento, to another open spot.

Heading into 2023, in Yolo County there were 11 judges, two of them women and only Sonia Cortés, a person of color.

In November, Newsom appointed Danette Castillo Brown, a Filipino, to the bench.  It’s still a bench with 7 men, four women, and two people of color in a county that is less than 50 percent white overall.

In March, with Judge Rosenberg retiring, that margin could get a little closer if Clara Levers, who would seem to be the odds-on favorite, indeed wins the judgeship.

Meanwhile, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, one way or another, figures to get more diverse as well.

The untimely death of Gary Sandy cleared the way for his widow, Mary Sandy, to get the appointment.  That marked the first woman on the Board of Supervisors since Helen Thomson retired in 2010.

And while her race is contested, she is facing Xochitl Rodriguez Murrillo, which ensures a woman will continue to hold that seat—possibly a Latina woman.

Meanwhile, one way or another with the retirement of Jim Provenza in the 4th District, the Board will get more diverse.

You have NJ Mvondo, who would be the first Black woman to be elected.  Or you have Antonio De Loera-Brust, a Latino.  Or you have Sheilla Allen – probably still the favorite – a woman.

NJ Mvondo has been a leader on issues of diversity and equity, De Loera-Brust has been an organizer for the farmworkers, and Sheila Allen has been Deputy Supervisor.

There is a distinct possibility that by this time next year, Lucas Frerichs ends up being the only white male on the board.  That’s assuming that Angel Barajas can win reelection against Paul Bridge in the 5th District.

The county has been surprisingly male-dominated, not just with 9 of the 11 judges and all five of the supervisors, but the other elected offices—Sheriff, DA, and Assessor—are all held currently by men.  In fact, for a time, the only department head who was a woman was Public Defender Tracie Olson.

Why has that happened?  Much of it is a fluke.  In 2007, there were two women on the Board of Supervisors, for example—Helen Thomson and Mariko Yamada.  Yamada got elected to the Assembly and was replaced by Jim Provenza.  Thomson retired and was replaced by Don Saylor.

The governors, for whatever reason, did not pay sufficient attention to issues of gender or even racial equity when they appointed a string of white males to the bench.

At the end of the day, to live in a progressive community like Davis and be in a county utterly devoid of diverse representation was frankly embarrassing.  Things are trending in the right direction.  We still haven’t achieved equity, but it is better than it was even a year ago at this time.

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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