Rebecca Hermosillo is the new Senior District Representative for Congressman Mike Thompson, whose district covers Napa County and parts of Sonoma, Contra Costa, Lake, and Solano counties. She replaces Stephen Gale, who retired in February.
By Lisa Stahr
Draw a line from a decision a young man made in 1947 all the way to his daughter’s career today as the new Senior District Representative for Congressman Mike Thompson and you’ll get a multigenerational immigration tale that’s worth hearing.
Camilo Hermosillo was 17 years old when he decided to join the US’s Bracero Program, a short-term labor program that allowed Mexican agricultural workers to come to the US for jobs, then rejoin their families in Mexico. It was a good opportunity for hard workers, which Camilo proved to be. For years, he picked prunes and strawberries throughout California, even after meeting and marrying his wife Maria on one of his many trips home.
As a Bracero, Camilo made better money than he could have in Mexico, and always sent it home so Maria could buy food, formula, and disposable diapers for the children. And whenever he got the chance, he’d return home to spend time with his growing family.
Eventually, Camilo got a job in the dairy industry in western Sonoma County. And it was there, after hearing the news the Bracero Program would end, that his boss encouraged him to take advantage of a change in US immigration law and apply to bring his family to the States. Soon, Camilo brought his wife and five kids to Sonoma Valley with permanent resident cards. In the following years, they had two more children, and he spent the rest of his career at Leveroni Ranch, working for three generations of the Leveroni family.
But the story doesn’t end there. This is a multigenerational tale, remember?
Camilo’s decision to spend years away from his family working hard in another land significantly improved his family’s circumstances, just as he had hoped. As his youngest child, Rebecca, says, “If not for him, I could be living in Mexico and not have the opportunities I have here.” But it wasn’t just his effort that made the difference in her life, it was also his example.
In her early 20s, his Rebecca was a single mother struggling to raise two young sons. Despite working long hours herself, she got involved with a women’s group that adopted families in need during the holidays. The irony wasn’t lost on Rebecca. “My boys and I were so poor, we could’ve been that family,” she laughs, but she found herself on the other side of the fence, and with the group, chose a deserving family, bought Christmas gifts for everyone, and even caroled outside their home. It was in the middle of caroling that Rebecca had an epiphany: “Even if you have nothing, you can still give time or energy or comfort, and that makes everyone feel great, yourself included.” After that, she always looked outward with a mindset to help others.
Later, while working in Sonoma County real estate, Rebecca joined the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals to help give Latinos a voice in the real estate, lending, and escrow industries. Seeing a need to help at-risk kids, she joined the Board of Directors for the Valley of the Moon Teen Center, too. While there, the first gang shooting in Sonoma County happened, and Rebecca volunteered to help kids process the emotions associated with that.
“From that experience, I could see the kids needed even more help than the Center was giving,” so she became the Center’s Executive Director and worked to pull at-risk kids back from the brink.
While running the Teen Center, Rebecca met Cheryl Diehm, a longtime staffer for Representative Mike Thompson. Cheryl and Rebecca would often talk about issues affecting Sonoma County and its Latino community, with Cheryl passing along Rebecca’s unique perspective to the Congressman. One day, Cheryl suggested Rebecca apply for a job opening in the Congressman’s Santa Rosa District office. Rebecca wasn’t sold on the idea.
“I thought the job would be more about paperwork than people,” she says, but “when Cheryl tells you to do something, you do it!” So she applied, interviewed, and was soon hired as a Constituent Services Representative.
Rebecca’s commitment to make a better life for herself and her children was a lesson she learned from her dad, and like Camilo, she tapped a well of determination to make it happen. While working full time in Thompson’s office, she also studied at Park University to get her Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. “I chose Park because I could do everything online at ridiculous hours, day and night,” she explains. “It’s the only way it would work with my schedule.”
Hers is a demanding job, whether supporting the Congressman at Town Halls and public events in the district or helping constituents navigate issues with federal agencies, including Social Security, Medicare, and the Veterans Administration. And, as the daughter of immigrants, she’s the ideal contact for anyone with immigration issues, her specialty in the office.
Like all staffers, Rebecca serves as the “eyes and ears” for the Congressman, bringing important information to him from the community and helping to disseminate information he has to share. And now, as the new Senior District Representative, she’ll take on even more responsibilities.
“I want to make sure we’re available, virtually because of Covid, everywhere we need to be, especially for new groups of community stakeholders and constituents,” she explains. “I also want our constituents to know we’re here to help. I want us to respond quickly to their needs and concerns and get them the help they need, be it from us at the federal level or by redirecting them to state or local agencies.”
Hard work and tenacity have defined the arc of Rebecca’s career, just as they did for her dad’s. She’s both thankful for the sacrifices he made as an immigrant and keenly aware of the privilege his hard work brought them.
“We are all so grateful in our family for everything we have and everything he did for us,” she says. “We don’t need more than that.”