County’s first LGBTQ commission begins service

Courtesy Don LabitStanford student Jason Galisatus inspired county supervisors to start a commission focusing on needs of the LGBTQ community.

As the newly formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer commission begins its service to San Mateo County communities, members are assessing their various responsibilities, including identifying the needs of LGBT residents.

The commission, which held its first official meeting late last month, was established after the county Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution in June. More than 50 candidates applied for nine positions, and the members were officially selected in early September.

The commission is the first of its kind in California that is dedicated exclusively to issues affecting the LGBT community, said county Supervisor Dave Pine, who co-sponsored the resolution creating the board.

“Other cities and jurisdictions have broader commissions that pick up these issues. San Francisco has a commission on human rights, and a big subset of that is advocating for the LGBTQ community, but this is the only commission solely focused on those issues in California,” Pine said.

While the commission hasn't established specific agenda items yet, some members say they hope to identify and address health, safety and community issues affecting certain groups that are marginalized within the LGBT community: senior citizens, youth, transgender individuals and people of color.

“I think one of the big things is that we don't really have a good idea in terms of quantitative data on what the LGBTQ community in San Mateo is really like,” said Commissioner Jason Galisatus. “I think it's really important that we know what our community needs and how they're receiving their services.”

Galisatus was the driving force behind the commission's formation. A senior at Stanford studying politics, he reached out to Pine early this year about forming a committee that would focus on issues specifically affecting the LGBT community.

Growing up in Redwood City, Galisatus said he always felt that the area was “incredibly supportive” to members of the LGBT community. But he wanted that community to have a central voice, which he said is what inspired him to propose the commission idea to Pine.

With support from Pine, a working group was formed to create and distribute a survey to county residents to gauge interest in the commission. The response was overwhelmingly positive, Pine said, and the momentum from community interest continued to propel the project forward.

“Each step of the way there was more excitement and more energy, and it became very clear that a commission of this kind would be very well received and very useful,” Pine said.

Out of 28 applicants interviewed by the Board of Supervisors, the board whittled the finalists down to 11 commission members — two more than it initially intended to select.

“Many people applied who had not had any interaction with county government in the past, and there was clearly a need for this commission in the county,” Pine said.

Galisatus added, “It just goes to show that there are so many people out there who believed in this issue and who wanted to get involved but didn't have a place where they could do that.”

Along with Galisatus, the commission is made up of members Dr. Jei Africa of San Mateo, Richard Faust of Pacifica, Gabe Garcia of Portola Valley, Stan Kiino of San Mateo, Kate MacKay of South San Francisco, Glenda Savage of East Palo Alto, Lynn Schuette of Pacifica, Stevie Stallmeyer of Menlo Park, Jennifer Walter of Half Moon Bay and youth representative Alex Neumann of Atherton.

The commission meets again Oct. 14.

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