If the New Oxford American Dictionary ever decided to start publishing images in addition to the required linguistic definition for which they are known, Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby’s image would appear right next to word badass: chiefly US, informal a formidably impressive person. While this textbook description of a word which Ashby not only exudes wholeheartedly, but engulfs, would be putting the caliber of the Vice Mayor’s accomplishments lightly– laymen terms fail in the face of a woman generating her own wave in the face of obstacles which threaten to deter her path. Unfortunately for them, they too fail.
Angelique Ashby of Sacramento, CA has been serving as Mayor Pro Tem of the city for just under ten years as of this year. Having never imagined herself in the political sphere, Ashby’s interest was stimulated upon moving into a new community where new parks, roads, and businesses among other novelties were being established. She describes, “I started fighting for things like stop signs, playgrounds, and fire stations. And I really liked representing the community, fighting for what my neighbors wanted, and that just grew into being someone who could fight for things for the city. That’s how I ended up running for city council.” Though her resolve was unintentional, she continues being the only woman on the city council as it currently stands, and views her position as both an honor and surprise as far as her tenure is concerned.
“When I first ran in 2010, in fact, Sacramento, in the 90s, way back before I was around here [Ashby was in high school], Sacramento actually had a majority of women on the council; the mayor was a woman. But over time that number has just dwindled down.” When Ashby was elected ten years ago, she was again, the only woman on the city council– a reluctant catalyst if you will. Now 2020, a decade which has seen the Paycheck Fairness Act, the eradication of the ban against women in military combat positions, Hillary Rodham Clinton secure the the Democratic presidential nomination, the first woman to lead the ticket, and a record number of women in Congress, with 104 female House members and 21 female Senators, has past. Ten years of a movement which can only be regarded as that of female insurgence, of revolution, of history, of glass ceilings broken– the remaining shards still refuse to cease their grasp on the eager wings of women in America.
In the ten years which Ashby has represented the city, nine new men have been elected to the council. Nine. Primarily attributing this disparity to the stature of the position which women vie for & the subsequent ‘competitiveness’ of said position, the Vice Mayor upholds that these are not unique circumstances. She explains, “Just a few years ago, there were no women on the LA city council. Now there are. But there weren’t for a while there. The reason is that the more powerful the seat becomes, the harder it is for women to attain that seat. Power can be described in many ways, it can be how much someone is compensated for that position. For example, if this was a volunteer board, and we weren’t paid, there would be more women.”
While the defiance of patriarchy doesn’t go without its respective challenges, Ashby, being a badass that is, has bigger fish to fry. Giving birth soon after high school, at the age of 20, the young mother relied on subsidized child care in addition to working full-time and raising her son entirely on her own. Relentless in every sense of the word, Ashby began taking college classes at the insistence of a diffident close friend— another example of a reluctant choice which resulted in the some form of personal evolution for the Vice Mayor.
She now possesses two degrees from UC Davis and a Juris Doctorate from from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law; all obtained while raising her son as a single mother. Willpower & tenacity being the defining mood of all Ashby pursues, she illustrates that the idea of conformity is perhaps the most detrimental to women looking to spark change in various capacities; regardless of what that role may be. “I don’t think women should have to conform. I don’t want young women to think: you can’t have a family to do this. I was a pregnant vice mayor of the city of Sacramento. I had a baby, I ran a council meeting on Tuesday, and had a baby on Thursday, right, you could do it.”
In spite of her reputation as being an incessant champion for the people of Sacramento, a stimulus in her own right, and again, a badass, Ashby is not exempt from subversive comments & opinions so many women face in male-dominated work environments. Because the formality of the political dynamic often warrants titles to the effect of “council member,” “mayor,” and “senator” among others, Ashby finds it interesting that her male counterparts prefer referring to her by her first name, Angelique, as oppose to “Vice Mayor,” her professional title. Recounting her first experience running for public office, she details that her opponent constantly referred to her in terms of her domestic role: a mom. Despite being relatively unbothered by such assertions, Ashby explaining that “mom” is her favorite title, she nonetheless felt belittled by the chauvinistic nature of such remarks.
“If you refer to me only as a mom, you sort of strip me of my law degree, my role in the community, being a business owner, a lot of things to sort of minimize me. Not an image that you picture upon hearing Mayor Pro Tem of one of the largest cities in California.”
If we can take anything away from Vice Mayor Ashby’s compelling history, it’s that she is a revolutionary above all else. While phrases like “only woman on Sacramento City Council,” “catalyst,” and “insurrectionist” will encircle the legacy of this wave maker, simply badass will suffice for the time being. Just as the word itself does, Angelique Ashby speaks for herself, she forever will. Her wings are unbound, vehement, and powerful. She marches at the forefront of this battle.