STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO COURTESY NEYSA FLIGOR
Los Altos City Council meetings used to look a certain way: white, often older individuals coming together to discuss the various, sometimes trivial issues they perceived to be important. Like constructing bocce ball courts.
Two years ago, that changed when Neysa Fligor became the first Black council member in Los Altos history. This year, breaking yet another barrier, she was elected mayor by the new Council, making her the first Black woman to hold the post.
On Council, Fligor has fought for safe routes to school, a larger-scope police task force and affordable housing, and plans to continue focusing on those same issues throughout her term as mayor.
Fligor got her start in public service as Deputy Counsel to Santa Clara County, and after moving to Los Altos, she sought to continue her career in public service by applying to the Planning Commission in Los Altos. The applicant pool was competitive, however, and she was offered a spot on the Grant Writing committee instead. Fligor said the Council was “very apologetic” that they could not offer her a spot on the Planning Commission.
“I felt immediately welcomed,” she said. “Los Altans overall, regardless of race, they welcome you; it’s part of the Los Altos spirit.”
After being the vice chair of the Grant Writing Committee and the chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission — and after being encouraged by friends and colleagues — Fligor decided to launch a bid for City Council in 2016, losing in an upset to current Council Member Lynette Lee Eng by a margin of only five votes.
In the following two years, Fligor continued serving the public and bolstering her credibility in the community through a seat on the El Camino Healthcare District Board; she then confidently relaunched her Council campaign, this time winning the most votes out of any candidate, going so far as to win every single precinct in the City.
After finally becoming a council member, Fligor set out to increase affordable housing in Los Altos, one of her biggest priorities while on Council. In a City that is mostly white, Fligor hopes that increasing affordable housing will allow more families to come to Los Altos, increasing diversity. Additionally, with more affordable housing, more individuals will be able to access the good education available in Los Altos.
“Some developers just want to reach the minimum threshold, so I’ve always encouraged them to go higher,” Fligor said. “By having more affordable homes, that will increase the diversity in our community.”
Fligor’s campaign in 2016 proved one thing that all politicians say: Your voice matters. And for those that cannot express their voice through a vote, public comment heavily impacts most if not all Council decisions.
“Most of the issues we discuss have a lot of public encouragement and engagement,” she said. “You can look at the community center, or at the downtown vision plan, or even safe routes to school, local government affects everything you do in Los Altos: if you drive on the street, benefit from our streetlights, if you go to our parks. Anything that you engage with in the city comes from the City Council or staff.”