A Fight for the Future
By: Susanna Conway
Photo credit: Skylaer Palacios
Skylaer Palacios, a former student at Healdsburg High School, is one of the six excellent candidates running for Healdsburg city council, and during a recent interview shared her experiences as a student, activist, and young politician. According to Skylaer, the resignation of former Healdsburg mayor Leah Gold prompted many community members, including current council member Shawn McCaffery, to encourage her to run. Raised in Healdsburg, Skylaer knows first hand some of the struggles that Healdsburg residents have faced in recent years and plans on using her passion for inclusion and advocacy to make a positive difference in her community. Though not having planned her candidacy, Skylaer eagerly took on the challenge of running for one of the three city council positions up for election.
Observing Healdsburg in recent years, Skylaer has seen many negative factors that she plans to address if elected. One of them is economic diversification. Since the start of the pandemic, at least six local businesses have been forced to shut down, and Skylaer believes that our town’s heavy reliance on tourism as an economic source is the main factor to blame. “I think we see that leaning so heavily on tourism as our economic face is not sustainable”, she remarked, and continued by saying that she would like to bring additional industries into Healdsburg, such as the arts, green industries, and healthcare, that would not only result in economic growth and diversity but also benefit the community.
Growing up in Healdsburg, Skylaer has had many years to observe and connect with the community around her. “Healdsburg has this spirit that I’ve always felt connected with, it’s like a spirit of humility, of caring, and of community”, she says. Unfortunately, in recent years, Skylaer has observed a loss in this sense of community, as many families have been forced to leave Healdsburg due to unaffordable housing and lack of community involvement. If elected, Skylaer states that she hopes to regain this sense of community and work on maintaining the good in addition to improving the bad.
Skylaer first gained interest in local politics when the peer coaching program at Healdsburg High was planned to be canceled. The program, which connected individuals throughout the school district, was designed to give younger students an older “buddy”, with whom they could confide about personal issues. Skylaer, who had been thoroughly involved in the program, decided to advocate for it and attended multiple school board meetings in an attempt to salvage it. “Taking that away was like taking away advocacy for youth”, she said. From there, her passion for government grew deeper, as she was crowned Miss Sonoma County and awarded a scholarship. Through this title, she was able to become an active member of county politics and attend many city council meetings, which she was often able to speak at. Additionally, she got the opportunity to become acquainted with multiple prominent political figures, such as state senator Mike McGuire, who inspired her to pursue her political dreams.
Skylaer, who graduated from Healdsburg High School in 2011, says that her overall experience at the school was a positive one. “I really enjoyed my teachers, I feel like I had some of the best teachers in the county”, she comments. Although she admits to having some trouble with the administration from time to time, Skylaer remarks that “being educated in Healdsburg was a privilege”.
When asked what advice she had for other young political entrepreneurs, Skylaer encourages “getting involved as early as possible”. As an advocate for youth involvement, Skylear firmly believes that members of younger generations should play an essential role in politics. “We are planning for the future and you need the voice of the future in that planning process”, she says. Often facing criticism for her young age and supposed inexperience, Skylear is frequently told that she is “not a good fit” for the city council seat. “Don’t listen to the nay-sayers, the haters, it’s fine”, Skylaer says in response to this, “If you want to be involved in government, the community should feel like it is a privilege to have your presence there”. As a young female politician, Skylear Palacios is a role model for the many aspiring young individuals in this town who would like to become involved in community government, and encourages anyone aspiring political change to “get your voice heard, make your presence aware, and make it known that you care”.