A seat at the table: Maplewood disability rights advocate wins seat on City Council

As the election results came in a few weeks ago in Maplewood, Nikki Villavicencio saw herself at the top in a race for City Council.

“I was so shocked, now I’m starting to realize it’s a real thing," said council member-elect Villavicencio.

Back in 2018, Villavicencio lost the council race by just 5 votes in a recount, but this time around, she gathered 700 more votes than the next candidate.

“This means a lot to people with disabilities, and marginalized people," Villavicencio said.

The council member-elect uses a wheelchair to get around after being born with a rare congenital joint condition known as arthrogryposis.

Villavicencio is known around the Twin Cities as a disability rights advocate, working too as a coalition builder with the Metropolitan Council, and a member of the Maplewood Parks and Recreation Commission.

“What has been heavy on my mind, is the fact that I do sit on the shoulders of folks with disabilities who have come before me in Minnesota," Villavicencio said.

There was a moment on the campaign trail, Villavicencio was asked why she was even in the race by a voter.

“When I was door-knocking, people would very bluntly ask me, ‘Why would somebody like you want to run for office,’" she recalled. “I say to them ‘If I can make the community accessible to me, and people like me, it’s going to be more accessible for the moms with strollers, and the senior citizens who want to walk to the grocery store.’"

To learn more about what she hopes to do in office, visit her campaign site.

Villavicencio hopes her victory can inspire everyone to try and create change in their community.

“Everybody has the right to be seated at the table of power," she said. "When we have more voices, we become more diverse and have better solutions at that table."

The newly elected officials in Maplewood will be sworn into office in January.