COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — NBC4 is highlighting the accomplishments and barriers broken by women within central Ohio, and one of them in particular was a first for Columbus.

In 2022, Lourdes Barroso de Padilla, the daughter of Cuban immigrants secured a seat on the Columbus city council as the first Latina council member.

“I still get emotional now thinking about it because there are so few people that you were the first at something,” Padilla said. “It wasn’t just a win from me. It was a win for the fourth and fifth and sixth generations. It was a win for every immigrant parent who made these incredible sacrifices.”

That ultimate sacrifice of immigration is intricately woven into every fiber of this Columbus native’s being. She said it impacts how she thinks and crafts legislation, and her awareness that democracy isn’t a given around the world played into her choice of public service.

“I think for them, democracy was something we did talk about at the dinner table, and for them to see how far we have come from a place where they felt like democracy was stolen from, them to be in a place where their daughter is helping to drive democracy, I think it’s indescribable,” Padilla said.

Padilla served as an AmeriCorps member as a teen and later helped on both John Kerry and Barack Obama’s campaigns. Fast-forwarding to the pandemic and civil unrest in 2020, that lifelong love of service morphed into a passionate campaign.

“It started to become more apparent we needed different leaders that had a different perspective, that had a different lived experience that could bring that to the table,” Padilla said.

That campaign was successful. Councilwoman Padilla now pushes legislation with strong ties to women, equality and equity and the Columbus metro’s aging population.

She views her work as a long game. It’s a fight that she may not see won immediately, but for generations to come.

“When I think about the legacy I want to leave I want to invest in the prosperity of people and our families, and when we start to see our families prosper, that’s when I know that legacy will be realized,” Padilla said.