Indian American politician Preet Didbal has been elected as the mayor of Yuba city in California, becoming the first Sikh woman to hold the position in the US.
Preet Dibdal a single mother spent her teenage years in Yuba City, Calif.’s orchards, picking and canning peaches.
There are other Sikh mayors across the country — Ravi Bhalla was elected earlier this month as mayor in Hoboken, New Jersey. But Didbal is the first Sikh woman to be elected as mayor in the country.Didbal was elected to Yuba city council in 2014 and is currently vice-mayor. She is the first in her family to graduate from college.
The new mayor said she worked at the graveyard shift at peach canneries to supplement the income of the immigrant Indian household. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Punjab in 1968. “They wanted what every immigrant parent wants: to give their children a better life. They worked hard so that we could have that, and always empowered us to be strong women,” said Didbal, who has three sisters.
Didbal formerly served eight years on the Yuba City Planning Commission and two years on the Sutter County Planning Commission. She has spent 19 years as a civil servant, working primarily for the California Correctional Health Care Services before transitioning to the State Compensation Insurance Fund in 2015.
The single mom, whose daughter Arianna began college this year at Willamette University in Oregon, said she had never thought of running for elected office. But her father’s death in 2011 made her rethink her destiny.
She recalled, “My father’s passing taught me so much about living a clean life with a legacy of giving back to my community.He always told me: ‘hold on to your integrity but follow your heart.'”
Indian Americans in this region, primarily Sikhs, now own an estimated 50,000 acres of land worth approximately $1.3 billion, and grow almost the entire crop of the nation’s canned peaches. Sikh farmers here also grow almost two-thirds of the nation’s walnuts, almonds, pistachios and dried plums.