What does it mean to make a difference? How do you leave indelible footprints when making a difference? Have you witnessed the grit and perseverance that come with making a difference and paving the way forward? It is always so inspiring to observe the strides and efforts that change agents make on their journey, even if it is merely from the sidelines, and cheering them on.

This week, not only in honor of the International Women’s Month, but also in appreciation of the contributions of Asian-Canadians to the history and economy of Canada, our spotlight is on Sandra Yeung Racco, a-seventeen (17) year Councillor for the Concord/North Thornhill/East Maple, City of Vaughan. Her immigrant story, foray into politics as City Councillor, exemplary leadership, commitment to her community, and lately, innovative drive for integrating technology into community management, bring us up close to her inspirational journey. 

“I found that over the years, music has played a major part in how I make decisions. I am a big believer that music should be a big part of every child’s upbringing.”

While her roots originated in Hong Kong, where she was born, Canada is home to Sandra, as she describes her life as being “great in this country”, when reflecting on her parents’ decision to immigrate to Canada for a better life, where she was able to pursue her love of music.

Sandra pursued her passion for music, since she arrived in Canada, with impressive degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, a passion that has defined her and the outlook to life over the years.

So, how did a music enthusiast end up on the corridor of politics, to run for City Councillor? She describes her life as “so far away from politics.” However, when her husband joined the political race for the Vaughan City Councillor seat, many years back, her foray into politics were from the sidelines of providing the support to run his campaigns and getting involved in her community. 

“When I started getting into politics, I had to overcome several barriers, because I am Female, and I am an Immigrant.” 

The opportunity to run for City Councillor presented itself to Sandra, with her husband’s political progression to the Provincial political arena. While supporting her husband’s campaign for the Federal office, Sandra’s inner circle of family, friends and community, convinced her to run for the office of City Councillor, and continue in her husband’s legacy. Armed with the experience of running her husband’s political campaigns for several years, she took on the challenge, and this time, the challenge of running two campaigns – her City Councillor’s and that of her husband’s.

That being said, everything didn’t come easy, as it was challenging managing two (2) campaigns. Overcoming that hurdle, to being elected in 2003, and subsequently re-elected five (5) times were not without the known challenges associated with new ideas that upturn the status quo. She says, “I had to overcome several barriers. First and foremost, I am a Female. Second, I am an Immigrant. Lastly, I had to overcome being in my husband’s shadow.”

“At the beginning, I didn’t challenge these things, because I was at the beginner’s stage in the school of politics. As much as I was involved, there was still so much for me to learn. As I kept moving forward, I encouraged my constituents to come directly to me for their issues. I stood my ground, I showed my constituents that I was trustworthy, and I demonstrated that I was hard-working. I think this really helped to build the confidence and trust in my community, and eventually people started to respect me and trust what I had to say.”

Her journey as a female politician, commitment to making a difference in her community, and her vision of Smart City for her region, are indeed indelible prints on her political journey. In response to the idea behind the vision, Sandra replies that a “Smart City is all about the fact that we are able to serve our citizens in the most efficient way possible. We are able to make the lives of our citizens easier and smoother.”

“We keep our conversation open with the ultimate goal of bringing people together and improving our economy.”

Sandra, and her team on the Smart City Vision, are consistently redefining community engagement, and providing innovative and effective solutions in providing services and for future development. She says, “A good example of this is garbage disposal. We piloted garbage receptacles that are equipped with a scanning bar. If a resident walks by this receptacle and notices that it is full or overflowing, they are able to scan it, using their phone, and this alerts our city officials to remove this garbage as soon as possible.”

While taking account their residents’ needs, Councillors like Sandra enable the community to connect with their elected officials and participate in their city’s maintenance and other development issues.

Sandra’s experience and global business partnerships, through several trade missions, particular to China, accelerated her role in directing municipal goals and priorities. She describes these missions as, being very informative. “It opened our eyes in a number of ways, and enabled us to see how other international communities, handle the same problems that we have here in Canada.”

Sandra recognizes the impact that these trade missions had on her strategic initiatives back in her Constituency, and further capitalizes on these business partnerships for the advancement of her Community. “As a whole, when we go on these trade missions, we study and find the similarities between our industries, and we use this knowledge to form strategic partnerships with other municipalities. We keep our conversation open with the ultimate goal of bringing people together and improving our economy.”

In closing, Sandra has this advice to young women in Canada and globally, “I think the biggest thing, and I say this to everyone that I mentor, is to volunteer. It is incredibly important, and it can play a major part in your future. It opens up so many great doors for you, as you never know who you will meet, and what opportunities they may present to you.”

Join us on this journey, every week for more spotlight on women and their impact, as we share inspirational stories of women, highlighting their struggles, accomplishments, and plans for the future, in recognition of International Women’s Month 2021 and the impact of women globally.