Please listen to Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela personal story of having to grow up living next to oil and gas wells that contaminate the air and land, infecting all who live and work near them. When this was taped, she had yet to be sworn into office. That happened on December 15, 2020.

Katie Valenzuela has been an activist for more than a decade. For years she has worked for organizations lobbying state lawmakers around environmental, education and equity causes. She’s currently the youngest member of the Sacramento City Council and the only renter.

Her passion for environmental issues comes stems from growing up in Oildale in Kern County, California’s seat of the petroleum industry. She has suffered from severe asthma from breathing toxins from oil and gas wells since she was a child, and was in and out of emergency rooms. Her last job was working as the policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance, where she testified in Sacramento on a bill that would have created 2,500 foot safety setbacks from oil and gas wells.

She attributes her community organizer streak to her father, a Vietnam veteran who died from cancer in 2012. He was a well-known activist for veterans’ affairs issues in Bakersfield and got her involved.

She’s been employed by Breathe California, Public Advocates law firm, and the now-defunct Ubuntu Green. She also worked in the state Legislature as a consultant for a joint legislative committee on climate change policies, and as a staffer for Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella.

People had been approaching her for years to run, but she’d always decline – seeing herself as more of an activist than an elected official. And then rent prices soared. She’s working to change that and continues to fight for climate justice.