Nashville, TN (WSMV) – In September 2019, Sandra Sepulveda became one of two history-making women elected to Nashville’s Metro Council. Upon her swearing-in, Sepulveda became the first Latina to ever serve as a council member in Nashville. She was joined by Zulfat Suara who was the first Muslim to hold a seat on the city’s governing body.
Sepulveda, 26, the newly-elected District 30 Council Member, made the decision to run in October 2018 at the age of 25.
“A lot of people said, 'wait your turn.' I just couldn’t,” says Sepulveda.
Sepulveda represents a “majority minority” district, comprised of the largest Hispanic population in Nashville and part of the largest Kurdish population in the United States.
“Almost 30 percent of [District 30] lives at-or-below the poverty line, so I wanted to make sure I could be a voice for them because a lot of them don’t have that,” says Sepulveda.
District 30 is made up of a portion of southeast Nashville, with Nolensville Pike to the west, I-24 to the east, Harding Pike to the north and Tusculum Road to the south serving as its borders.
“A lot of people have been forgotten here,” says Sepulveda. “It’s difficult, because I’ve lived here since I was 5 and I feel forgotten. It’s hard for us to say someone is listening and someone cares.”
Sepulveda admits she never intended to run for public office and was content to work behind the scenes in her full-time role as Office Manager for the Tennessee Democratic Party. She decided in 2018 she could no longer sit on the sidelines while people in her district struggled.
“My district doesn’t have a library, a community center, or a park and we have two elementary schools,” says Sepulveda. “The kids don’t have anywhere safe to play. There’s barely any sidewalks. We don’t have that many bus shelters and with 30% of the district who live below the poverty line, you know, it’s important – they rely on public transportation!”
Sepulveda studied history and politics at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville and was the first in her family to graduate college. She worked in a restaurant at night and the school cafeteria in the morning – all while taking 18 credit hours each semester to finish school on time. Sepulveda graduated in May 2015.
“It was difficult! I had to work two jobs to pay my way through,” says Sepulveda. “My parents helped out with what they could.”
Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico when they were teenagers. Sepulveda says when they first arrived, they picked flowers for 25-cents a dozen. As Sandra grew up --along with two older brothers and a younger sister-- her parents worked in factories to make ends meet. Her mother is still employed at a factory in Smyrna.
“Immigrant children are taught that you have to do better so that your parents sacrifice wasn’t for nothing,” said Sepulveda. “I hope that I was able to live up to that.”
Sepulveda has vowed to represent the people of her district with dignity and fight for a better quality of life for all of her constituents.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” says Sepulveda. “I’m 26 but I have this whole group of people who are counting on me.”