Grace Vargas, first female and first Latina mayor of Rialto, dies – San Bernardino Sun



Grace Vargas, the first female and first Latina mayor of Rialto, died Sunday, Aug. 14, after a long illness, according to a news release.

She was 81.

Decades before serving as an elected official, Vargas moved to California as a young single mother of seven.

She began working in the City Clerk’s Office in the late 1970s, and later worked in the Rialto Police Department and the City Treasurer’s Office. In 1979, she became the city’s licensing inspector.

Vargas was elected to the City Council in 1998.

Two years later, voters elevated her to the mayor’s post, where she served for 12 years.

In a statement, Mayor Deborah Robertson, who served on the City Council during Vargas’ tenure and succeeded her as mayor, called her former colleague “a trailblazer and an inspiration to women and women of color throughout our region.

“We will miss her passion, her strength and her commitment to our city,” Robertson added.

In a cable TV interview during her last year in office, Vargas noted freeway expansion, economic development projects and the senior center as her biggest accomplishments.

In a 2012 op-ed for Fontana News Room, she touted major infrastructure improvements along the 210 and 10 freeways and the ripple effects such work would have on Rialto businesses.

“These kinds of improvements provide a competitive edge,” she wrote, “bringing customers, creating shipping and delivery opportunities, and allowing employees to reduce commute times (and related stress) and increase productivity.

“The dollars and cents of that alone justifies the investment.”

Vargas sought to be “an ambassador to the city” post-retirement, and push for new businesses while helping Rialto residents.

In 2016, the city named the senior center after her.

“Grace had a heart of gold,” Councilman Ed Scott said in the release, “and was determined to help make Rialto a great city. She embodied the best of what public service is.”

Flags were being flown at half-staff at City Hall and other locations in mourning.

“She earned the name ‘Amazing Grace’ for a reason,” longtime City Clerk Barbara McGee said in a statement. “I was proud to work alongside her, and to call her my friend.”

Vargas was “a good mentor and role model for all of us,” Councilman Rafael Trujillo said. “We already miss her.”



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