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About Esther


I was born and raised in Oceanside, part of a five generation Oceanside family. My dad Luis, born in Texas, came to Oceanside in 1937 with his family when he was seven. I remember some of his stories of working in the fields of Texas as a child.

My dad fell in love with my mom, Carolina, while visiting relatives in Tijuana. He wooed her until she said “yes,” then immigrated her to Oceanside. They were married at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in 1954. I was born two years later.

My dad built his family home in the Eastside/Barrio Posole, just one block from where he grew up. This was the Latino neighborhood, with roots starting around the 1900's. For several decades it also became home to other racial and ethnic families, due mostly to redlining, and military families. It was not uncommon to see MP's driving around the neighborhood. The Eastside is still one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods in Oceanside. The Hall of Fame at Laurel Elementary, the Eastside's neighborhood's school, boasts some of the most successful alumni of Oceanside, including some of the city's greatest athletes like Willie Buchanon and Junior Seau. 

My parents had a strong work ethic. Growing up during the depression, they wanted a better life for their children. My mom worked in the tomato and flower fields, cannery, then Reeves Rubber factory in San Clemente. She worked the swing shift, 4 pm to midnight, so that at least one parent would always be home. She worked at the factory for 27 years, until it closed. My dad worked on base as a warehouseman, 2200 area, for 35 years. He never missed a day of work. My parents were also very much involved in the community and the church, petitioning city hall for paved streets, lights, Joe Balderrama Park, and schools.

I graduated from Oceanside High, just after the second high school campus was built. I attended “west” campus for two years, then “east” campus, later called “El Camino High School.” 

I received a scholarship to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where I majored in Urban Studies. During my first summer, I interned in Washington, DC for Senator John Tunney and watched the historic Congressional roll-call vote on the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I also volunteered for the United Farm Workers and for Providence Legal Aid and later worked for a community-based organization as a community organizer.

After Brown, I came home and worked as a marketing secretary for an electronics firm while taking graduate classes at Cal State, San Diego Graduate School of Urban Planning, as well as at UCSD’s Urban and Rural Studies. I then entered Hastings College of Law, graduating in May 1986, passing the July bar. I started in private practice, then joined the county in 1988, first with County Counsel then with the Public Defender’s Office, where I worked for 20 years as a Deputy Public Defender, serving my community.

While not blessed with kids of my own, I have a wonderful niece, nephews and great nephews. We are a very close family.

After over 40 years of being a permanent resident, my mom became a citizen of the United States in 1996. She immediately registered to vote. I was there to watch my mom cast her ballot in her hometown of Oceanside for the first time!

I have lived in Oceanside for almost my entire life, leaving for college and living briefly in Chula Vista and San Diego near work. I have watched Oceanside grow from a town of 30,000 to a city of 174,000.

While working with the public defender’s office, I became involved with community/police relations in Oceanside, especially with respect to our communities of color. Too many of our youth and family members were being incarcerated, not enough was being done to inspire our future generations regarding choices, opportunities, and to follow their dreams.

The 1998 vote on Prop V, the 12 story Manchester project, also drew my attention to Oceanside politics. I could not believe that our city council would privatize our beach, pier and bandshell area, bulldoze our bluffs and give away the 450 acres at El Corazon for a golf course. I felt compelled to run for office, to speak on behalf of so many who felt disenfranchised. As I connected with voters in 2000, I listened to concerns about the lack of services for our seniors and youth, as well as what seemed to be the failure of redevelopment and economic development and lack of cultural, recreational and environmental resources.

Running for the first time, I got to talk to family and friends. I felt a tremendous connection and love for a community that gave me so much. Winning the council seat was a very humbling experience, because now I was responsible for the quality of life of over 174,000 people.

I love the Law and the Constitution. I love the fact that I live in a country that values freedom and liberty and educational opportunities.

Most of all, I love my family, my faith, and I love Oceanside!