Petaluma Profile: ‘Like the river,’ Iliana Madrigal works to be a part of the city
“It was like the movies,” said Iliana Madrigal, describing the moment she was introduced to Petaluma. “My first thought was, this is the kind of place I’m going to start and raise a family with my husband.”
Madrigal, who was born in San Bernardino, has also lived in a wide swath of cities in Mexico. As Madrigal grew up, she developed an interest in government affairs and international relations. As she began her college career in Palm Desert, this interest became a passion which led her to attending San Francisco State University and gaining a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, then a Masters in Urban and Public Affairs at University of San Francisco.
Madrigal said it was a long and difficult journey, but her tenacious proficiency in education allowed to attain her overarching goal ‒ a job in local government which reflected her intense interest in human rights.
“The hybrid education process was difficult during the COVID shutdown because taking class online was a challenge,” Madrigal said, “but almost as bad when I had to commute into San Francisco on a difficult schedule.”
Eventually, this culminated in an appointment to the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission as a commissioner. Madrigal praises her role model, also from Petaluma, for her encouragement.
“Faith Ross was the person that taught me that, yes, your voice matters, people should be treated with dignity, feel safe and be respected,” she said.
But even this endeavor did not satisfy Madrigal’s desire to help the people of Sonoma County.
“When I got to know Petaluma nine years ago, I saw how much a part of the Petaluma River was integrated with the city of Petaluma, and I knew I wanted to be part of this city just like the river,” she said.
Madrigal, who is married to Petaluma planning commissioner Blake Hooper, is now heavily involved in local and county committees and commissions. These include Friends of the Petaluma River (where she is the part time communications director), and the North Bay Labor Council where she works as a Research and Policy Associate. She also serves with the Petaluma’s Youth Commission, Petaluma People Services Center’s Board of Directors, the Petaluma General Plan Advisory Board, the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee, and a host of other organizations.
Along the way, Madrigal earned the University of San Francisco Archbishop Oscar Romero Award and the Sue Bierman Award for Service in Urban and Public Affairs.
“I want to make sure that everyone knows they have rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and laws of the land to be housed, fed, have access to the essentials of living,” she said. “People have the right, regardless of education, status, age, gender, identity, ethnicity, to express themselves freely.”
Clearly, when Madrigal speaks of these issues, her passion is unequivocal. When asked about her proudest achievement so far, she is quick to point out that the work she does is a collaborative effort.
“Yensi Jacobo, a current commissioner on the Sonoma County Human Rights Board, along with others, gave power to the Sonoma County Junior Commission on Human Rights,” she said. “Which provided an outlet for high school youth to gather around education and activism on human rights issues, giving them an opportunity to become leaders to educate their peer students about human rights issues affecting their community and actively engage with county government on issues important to youth in Sonoma County.”
Despite this heavy load of civic involvement, Madrigal has lately found a new hobby to enjoy.
“I’ve recently started with Ballet Folklorico locally,” she said. “I love seeing the children, alongside their parents, learn about their culture, listening to music and instruction and watching them learn dance.”