Nancy Chaires just has to glance at the back of her iPad for motivation.
The 33 year-old Elk Grove planning commissioner and Harvard graduate inscribed her tablet with a quote by fellow alumnus John F. Kennedy: To those whom much is given, much is expected.
“That has been my motivation for a very long time,” Chaires said. “It can certainly sound hokey, but I feel fortunate for all the opportunities I’ve had … I have a family with very humble beginnings.”
Chaires recently announced her intent to seek City Councilman Gary Davis’ seat if he is elected mayor in the November election.
Although people have encouraged Chaires to run for city council in the past, she didn’t feel an urgent need to hold an elected office – until recently.
“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing on the planning commission, and I’ve learned so much about the city that I think I just got to the point where I feel like I need to fix things within my reach,” she said. “I can contribute more.”
Davis, who represents District 4, has two years remaining on his term.
If elected mayor in November, Davis’ seat will be up for grabs. The City Council can either hold a special election or appointment someone to fill the spot.
Chaires has served on the planning commission for the last five years. She plans to focus on providing services for all age groups in Elk Grove if she wins a council seat.
“We run the full spectrum here, from young families to seniors,” Chaires said. “I’d love to play a role in ensuring we are providing adequate services to fulfill that full spectrum of needs, so Elk Grove can be the kind of city where you can live your entire life.”
Chaires also hopes to address Elk Grove’s jobs and housing imbalance.
“I have a dream of a short commute to work, or even a bicycle ride. It’s very important to bring more jobs to Elk Grove, not just the fast-food type jobs, but good paying jobs,” she said.
Born in Southern California, Chaires was raised in West Covina by Mexican immigrant parents.
“My mom was rural poor and my dad was urban poor, so the conversation in my house was which was worse,” Chaires said, adding that both her parents had to drop out of school at a young age in order to work and help their families.
“I was very fortunate that they supported me and my brothers in pursuing our educations … I was very lucky,” she said.
Chaires graduated from Whittier College, where she double majored in political science and Spanish, before earning her master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.
An Elk Grove resident since 2006, Chaires is married to Pablo Espinoza and is the mother of a teenage boy.
Chaires is a California Department of Education special projects consultant, working in its Migrant Education Office.
“It’s particularly rewarding because my father was a migrant farm worker, who migrated around the state with his father,” she said.
In her spare time, Chaires volunteers at her son’s high school and has also served as a court appointed special advocate assisting a child in the foster care system.
Chaires is also a member of the Harvard Alumni Association’s committee in charge of interviewing admission applicants.
“I like to do that because I get the entire spectrum of kids, and the interesting thing is both jobs often turn into mentoring situations,” Chaires said.