Bye Blanca: South El Monte’s long-time mayor officially off City Council

I know she was eccentric, but it’s still kind of sad to see that Blanca Figueroa will no longer serve on the South El Monte City Council.

I am having trouble finding out when she was first elected, but I know she’s been on the council a long time, most of it as the city’s popularly elected mayor.

Blanca was a talker, that’s for sure. A phone conversation with her always took at least 30 minutes. I have to say, though, all 30 minutes were pretty fun. She talked in a stream-of-consciousness that assumed the listener knew all the inside stuff about the city. So every few minutes, I would stop her and have her explain something. It led to a lot of good stories.

Most recently, she made the national news for working all night at City Hall. The city passed a law outlawing working at City Hall at night, but the sheriff’s captain said he wouldn’t enforce it.

One of our reporters, I think it was Jennifer McLain, did a video interview with Blanca at a City Hall office. It was so funny. Blanca had a little stockings on, and a drawer full of snacks. She just gabbed in the kind, funny way she always did. I’ll re-post it when I find it.

I’m not super familiar with Blanca’s political career, but I think she was a fairly dedicated public servant. She served on lots of local governing boards and showed up at all the meetings. The other council members always kind of seemed jealous of her. I think they wondered how she remained so popular. Personally, I’ll miss talking with Blanca. She is a sweetheart.

Here’s a story about her replacement being chosen:

SOUTH EL MONTE – The City Council on Tuesday unanimously selected Willhans Ili as their newest colleague on the council. He was immediately sworn in.

Ili 34, was chosen from among eight candidates for the post, including former mayor Blanca Figueroa. He will fill the seat left vacant when Luis Aguinaga left the position to become mayor, after running unopposed for that post in November.

Ili said he was inspired to seek the seat in the wake of the death of his childhood friend and El Monte educator Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo.

“He was 33 and he did so much for the community. I’m 34 … I had to ask myself how I could help my community,” Ili said. “It is sad that it took the death of a friend to motivate me.”

Ili, who is finishing his master’s degree in education at Point Loma Nazarene University, said his priorities would be to keep the city’s budget balanced, build more affordable housing, and increase college graduation rates among South El Monte youths.

Before making its decision, the Council interviewed five of the candidates for approximately 15 minutes each.

In addition to Ili, Manuel Acosta, Dorris Hennings, Nancy Muniz and Robert Yrigoyen Jr. all answered questions about their ideas on the city’s budget and future.

Council members all praised the candidates for their responses and interest in the vacant seat.

Though they were invited, Figueroa and candidates Jesus Castillo and Michael Pugrad Jr. did not
attend the meeting or interview for the vacant seat.

Figueroa ran unsuccessfully for council, instead of mayor, in November. As the third-place vote-getter in the council race for two seats, she had hoped the council would select her for Aguinaga’s seat.

The council decided to select a replacement rather hold a special election for the seat, which would have cost approximately $30,000 to $50,000.

As a member of the council, Ili will be paid $771 a month.

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