News

Social scientist and startup mentor running in contested Atherton City Council race

Nov. 3 election has four candidates running for two seats

Diana Hawkins-Manuelian. Courtesy Diana Hawkins-Manuelian.

A global pandemic. Wildfires. Environmental degradation.

These are top of mind for Atherton City Council candidate Diana Hawkins-Manuelian — but they weren't always.

"In the past, I didn't particularly follow politics (neither local nor national)," she said. "I have only recently become a news junkie when the world got so crazy."

The 27-year Atherton resident, who has thrown her hat in the ring for the town's City Council election coming Nov. 3, said she is a very unlikely person to be running for political office. "But here I am," she said.

Her candidate statement sums up her attitude: "I am not a politician but instead a concerned citizen who would like to provide a voice of reason, cooperation and direction."

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While Hawkins-Manuelian lacks political experience, she has plenty of credentials. A doctorate from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a postdoctoral degree from MIT, and professional consulting experience with companies like NBC, MTV, and Citibank. She currently serves on Atherton's Environmental Programs Committee, where she pursues her passion for environmental advocacy.

She's also a mother of three — all raised in Atherton. Like many mothers, Hawkins-Manuelian said she is currently helping her youngest son Marco, 14, navigate remote learning with schools closed due to COVID-19.

Like many Bay Area residents, she's feeling the effects of the CZU Lightning Complex fires. "This week I have been reeling from the impact of wildfires and unhealthy levels of smoke," she said. "Our beloved forests are burning."

Hawkins-Manuelian said a close friend of hers lost everything in the fires, escaping only with his family and pets.

Her official candidate website, launched this week, lists fire safety among her first priorities. She said she is against Atherton leaving the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, a controversial proposal the City Council considered earlier this year.

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Her other key priorities: support for the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency preparedness, and climate change. She said she hopes to see the town do more to make a difference in the battle against global warming.

"We are all in this together. We all breathe the same air and live on the same planet," she told the magazine Atherton Living recently. "The solutions will not only come from large cultural and systemic changes, but also from many individual changes that we each make every day."

One Atherton-specific environmental idea she has: A program that "will help all residents and gardeners make the conversion to electric leaf blowers."

Hawkins-Manuelian is one of four candidates vying for two open seats on the City Council. She's up against two well-established incumbents: Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis and Councilman Cary Wiest, along with newcomer Christine David, a former Park & Recreation Committee chair.

This year will be Atherton's first contested election since 2014, with the current members on the council having been appointed.

Hawkins-Manuelian was born in Fort Hood, Texas, and moved around often, both in the U.S. and Germany, as her father was in the Army. She spent her middle school years in Monterey, and high school years in upstate New York. Her husband, George Manuelian, is an executive in Amazon's Global Alliance team.

As a social scientist, her research interests have been in tech and media — particularly its effect on youth. She's a board member for America Offline, an organization that encourages young people to unplug from technology and engage in outdoor activities.

In her candidate statement, Hawkins-Manuelian emphasized that she would like to see more community togetherness in Atherton — where many affluent residents live behind tall fences.

"Like my fellow Atherton residents, I value my privacy but at the same time need community. In the last 20 years that I have lived in Atherton, I have never seen more people walking the streets than I have during quarantine. Things are changing in our world and we are all in this together."

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Social scientist and startup mentor running in contested Atherton City Council race

Nov. 3 election has four candidates running for two seats

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 31, 2020, 2:52 pm

A global pandemic. Wildfires. Environmental degradation.

These are top of mind for Atherton City Council candidate Diana Hawkins-Manuelian — but they weren't always.

"In the past, I didn't particularly follow politics (neither local nor national)," she said. "I have only recently become a news junkie when the world got so crazy."

The 27-year Atherton resident, who has thrown her hat in the ring for the town's City Council election coming Nov. 3, said she is a very unlikely person to be running for political office. "But here I am," she said.

Her candidate statement sums up her attitude: "I am not a politician but instead a concerned citizen who would like to provide a voice of reason, cooperation and direction."

While Hawkins-Manuelian lacks political experience, she has plenty of credentials. A doctorate from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a postdoctoral degree from MIT, and professional consulting experience with companies like NBC, MTV, and Citibank. She currently serves on Atherton's Environmental Programs Committee, where she pursues her passion for environmental advocacy.

She's also a mother of three — all raised in Atherton. Like many mothers, Hawkins-Manuelian said she is currently helping her youngest son Marco, 14, navigate remote learning with schools closed due to COVID-19.

Like many Bay Area residents, she's feeling the effects of the CZU Lightning Complex fires. "This week I have been reeling from the impact of wildfires and unhealthy levels of smoke," she said. "Our beloved forests are burning."

Hawkins-Manuelian said a close friend of hers lost everything in the fires, escaping only with his family and pets.

Her official candidate website, launched this week, lists fire safety among her first priorities. She said she is against Atherton leaving the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, a controversial proposal the City Council considered earlier this year.

Her other key priorities: support for the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency preparedness, and climate change. She said she hopes to see the town do more to make a difference in the battle against global warming.

"We are all in this together. We all breathe the same air and live on the same planet," she told the magazine Atherton Living recently. "The solutions will not only come from large cultural and systemic changes, but also from many individual changes that we each make every day."

One Atherton-specific environmental idea she has: A program that "will help all residents and gardeners make the conversion to electric leaf blowers."

Hawkins-Manuelian is one of four candidates vying for two open seats on the City Council. She's up against two well-established incumbents: Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis and Councilman Cary Wiest, along with newcomer Christine David, a former Park & Recreation Committee chair.

This year will be Atherton's first contested election since 2014, with the current members on the council having been appointed.

Hawkins-Manuelian was born in Fort Hood, Texas, and moved around often, both in the U.S. and Germany, as her father was in the Army. She spent her middle school years in Monterey, and high school years in upstate New York. Her husband, George Manuelian, is an executive in Amazon's Global Alliance team.

As a social scientist, her research interests have been in tech and media — particularly its effect on youth. She's a board member for America Offline, an organization that encourages young people to unplug from technology and engage in outdoor activities.

In her candidate statement, Hawkins-Manuelian emphasized that she would like to see more community togetherness in Atherton — where many affluent residents live behind tall fences.

"Like my fellow Atherton residents, I value my privacy but at the same time need community. In the last 20 years that I have lived in Atherton, I have never seen more people walking the streets than I have during quarantine. Things are changing in our world and we are all in this together."

Comments

Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 2, 2020 at 7:38 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2020 at 7:38 am
4 people like this

Finally the voters in Atherton will have a choice.

None of the current Town Council members have been elected to their current terms. And only DeGolia has any commitment to transparency and accountability.

Adding Hawkins and David to the Council would give DeGolia a working majority that could return the Town Council to being an effective and respected entity.


RanchGal
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 2, 2020 at 10:04 am
RanchGal, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2020 at 10:04 am
4 people like this

Electric leaf blowers YES ! I’ll vote for her on that issue alone. Agree with Peter C.


CyberVoter
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Sep 3, 2020 at 12:32 pm
CyberVoter, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2020 at 12:32 pm
4 people like this

Please do not turn Atherton into Palo Alto or Menlo Park. I did not move here to create a Social Advocacy movement or a new EPA. What is the role/mission of the Atherton Town Council? It should be to serve the needs of the local community. Security & lifestyle are the paramount concerns in the area. Affordability is another issue.We have a large number of residents that a=are retired &n now on a fixed income. Please pay attention to their financial limitations.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 3, 2020 at 12:43 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2020 at 12:43 pm
6 people like this

CyberVoter - The Town Council could save millions by the simply act of contracting for police services with the Sheriff as does Woodside, Portola Valley and San Carlos.

The current council is fixated on having its own toys and even wants to add its own fire department so it could have more toys. Lewis and Wiest are key movers in trying to get a separate fire department for Atherton - they need to go.

Neither police or fire services can be provided economically to a very small town like Atherton except as part of a much larger entity.

We need the fresh perspectives that Hawkins and David would bring to the council.


rdegolia
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 3, 2020 at 2:46 pm
rdegolia, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2020 at 2:46 pm
Like this comment

Two inaccuracies in Peter Carpenter's posts that I think are worth addressing: First, it is true that Atherton hasn't had an election for each of the last two elections (because no one ran against the incumbents), but this entire 5 person council is the ONLY city council in Atherton's history where all five members were originally elected by the voters (other than the very first council where the electorate voted to incorporate Atherton AND elect 5 council members). It is astonishing that most council members who knew that they weren't going to run for re-election simply resigned early to allow the existing members to appoint their replacements and then the appointees would be incumbents and easily be re-elected. ALL FIVE of the current council members were originally elected. Until the Fire Services issue split this Council apart, it has been extremely collaborative and representative of Atherton residents.
Second, Elizabeth Lewis is opposed to detachment from the Fire District. I have been very outspoken that the idea of detachment is a serious mistake that is a waste of time and money, and an unnecessary threat to the Fire District. The inaccuracy is to say that Lewis has been a key mover to separate from the Fire District. Elizabeth has opposed the effort of the Council majority to consider detachment.
Finally, and appropriate to this Almanac article, I am thrilled to see three women running for two open seats. We have needed this for a long time and Diana Hawkins Manuelian is strongly opposed to detachment from the Fire District and is an excellent candidate. I hope that readers will go to her website and look at her excellent video where she addresses important policy issues.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 3, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2020 at 2:50 pm
2 people like this

"Elizabeth Lewis is opposed to detachment from the Fire District."

I stand corrected. My comment was based on her vehement personal attacks on me when I spoke on the issue before the Town Council on behalf of the Fire Board. I am pleased to hear that she has changed her position.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 3, 2020 at 7:24 pm
Thoughtful, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2020 at 7:24 pm
2 people like this

Being on the Atherton council takes a lot of time, patience and work. I don't agree with everything (or most) of what some of the council members have decided, but I have to admit, it's a thankless job and an unpaid job that requires a lot in return.

Therefore, we should be grateful to Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest for their years of service.

All things being said, would this community benefit from having fresh perspectives and people on the council? Of course, without a doubt, this would lead to sharper and better governance.

That takes nothing away from the many hours that Elizabeth and Cary have donated to the community, but it's time for some new blood.

I watched the video from Diane Hawkins. Primary takeaway: she "supports the police". To be fair, that's pablum. We do need some council members who can take the budgetary/detachment issues head on. A lot of this mom and apple pie stuff may play well, but when California is enacting wealth taxes to pay for public safety pensions that keep driving up the deficit, residents will think differently and wish some sharp decisions had been made right now and years ago (and, yes, a wealth tax bill is already in the legislature; I don't think it will pass this time, but it's a canary in the coal mine of what is to come).


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