Mills alum Natasha Middleton is running for City Council in District 6 of Oakland. She is a longtime Bay Area resident, having raised her son in the area.
Middleton graduated from Mills in 2013, with a master’s degree in public policy. She has been a public servant for the City of Oakland and Alameda Country since earning her masters. This has included serving as Policy Analyst and Community Liaison for Oakland Council member (now Mayor) Libby Schaaf in 2013. She is currently working for the Alameda County Probation Department as a management analyst, helping to advance policy reforms that benefit those in the criminal justice system.
A strong advocate for women’s rights, Middleton has organized events such as the California Women Lead Appointments Training Workshop, and devoted to training women who wish to run for elected office in order to, hopefully, increase the number of female candidates. She has also volunteered for Emerge California, which is a nonprofit organization that exists to help California women and minorities be elected to public office and served on the Family Violence Law Center board.
“Natasha came to us as a very well-polished speaker who could have a strong and inspiring presence in the room, which was really fun in class,” said Mark Henderson, associate professor of public policy at Mills College. “She didn’t dominate the room, but she was worth pausing and listening to when she had something to say.”
Middleton believes that housing and after-school care are the two issues most relevant to Mills students.
“I know that some students that have families or children, they may not be able to afford the [Children’s School] on site and trying to find housing, especially family housing is a challenge,” said Middleton.
Emphasizing her commitment to increase housing efforts for Mills students and the larger community, Middleton said, “Mills is really like a family member to me.”
Middleton is passionate about local issues affecting Oakland now and interested in bringing a fresh lens to the city council. Her platform positions are creating safer communities, mitigating the rise in homelessness, increasing public safety, supporting small businesses and combating human sex trafficking.
“It’s time for a principled, policy-focused council member who will do the work to address the District 6 housing crisis, lack of business and local development and other critical issues,” said civil rights activist Elaine Brown during her endorsement of Middleton.
She has worked with local agencies and schools to promote awareness and cooperating with local organizations doing the work with CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children).
“The City Council member represents an area that is a high traffic area for that kind of activity. On the midcycle budget, they dedicated more money to advocacy and preventative services around sex trafficking and funding those organizations that are doing the work,” said Middleton, “When I sat on the Measure Z commission, that’s a key piece of violence prevention and safety—making sure that organizations that are funded through the monies that are allocated from the revenue are going to organizations serving that population.”
Middleton has worked with Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils and Law Enforcement to ensure community safety. These efforts resulted in Measure Z: The 2014 Oakland Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Act. This local measure enacted anti-violence prevention programs, emergency response and collaboration with local police. Middleton’s involvement with the measure shaped her interest in safety prevention programs. She also co-organized the Feed the People Burritos Project, which shared healthy food options and provided prepared meals for homeless persons.
“I support the Vacant Property Tax,” said Middleton, “We almost need to throw out the kitchen sink to solve homelessness…we need to build more affordable housing; we really need to have places in which the unsheltered can live.”
Middleton advocates for Tuff sheds as a temporary solution, after which, occupants should be transitioned into permanent housing.
Henderson reflects on the Mills experiences that might have contributed to Middleton’s career as a civil servant and current political ambitions.
“I credit our women’s leadership and politics class, but I’m not sure Natasha needed our nudge to think of herself in that realm,” said Henderson about Middleton’s interest to run for local office.