FREMONT — Trisha Tahmasbi's story starts out like countless others: a single, twentysomething from parts East moves to the Bay Area.

But unlike most of her nontechie compadres, who typically settle in San Francisco or Oakland, Tahmasbi ended up in Fremont, where her story took an unexpected turn.

In 2007, just three years after moving to town, Tahmasbi was appointed to the Ohlone College Board of Trustees. Another year later, she has emerged as an establishment choice for City Council, securing the endorsements of major unions, business organizations and three City Council members.

In fact, Tahmasbi, 28, has won every endorsement she has sought. She even won the support of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, California Apartment Association and Bay East Realtors Association despite being a renter and pledging not to accept donations from developers.

Her detractors attribute such success to her boss: Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, one of Sacramento's most powerful politicians.

Not so, Tahmasbi said.

She noted that the apartment-owners group and the chamber, which only endorsed her candidacy, aren't exactly Democratic Party backers. Also, Tahmasbi said, the last local candidate that Torrico strongly supported, Sharlene Saria-Mansfield, didn't win the endorsement of sitting council members in her failed bid last year for Newark City Council.


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Tahmasbi may be running with establishment support, but she often sounds like an outsider.

During an interview last week, she said the council and city staff members haven't been proactive enough in attracting new business or in articulating a vision for the city's future.

She called the process for developing a new general plan, "a missed opportunity," the level of police staffing, "an embarrassment," and said that, unlike the council, she would not have brought back a developer who already had failed to get a redevelopment project off the ground in Centerville.

Tahmasbi supports the Oakland A's ballpark village plan, but isn't ready to sign off until more details are known.

While she usually talks about economic development and public safety on the campaign trail, health care is the issue that got her interested in politics.

When Tahmasbi was 10, her mother suffered a heart attack and was saddled with a $100,000 medical bill, Tahmasbi said.

"She had that medical bill looming over her head," Tahmasbi said of her mother, who was divorced and had no medical insurance.

Seven years later, when Tahmasbi — who grew up in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico — was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, her mom again felt chest pains, Tahmasbi said. But instead of going to the hospital, she went to work. The next day, she collapsed and died.

"She didn't have it in her to face another hospital bill," Tahmasbi said.

After her mother's death, Tahmasbi decided to major in political science rather than computer science. She worked her way through college in seven years and graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2004.

While still a student, she worked for a union representing university faculty, and landed a job with then-Assemblyman John Dutra. After Dutra was termed out, his successor, Torrico, hired Tahmasbi as a field representative and promoted her to deputy chief of staff.

Tahmasbi said her time in the Assembly has given her unique skills that could benefit the council, such as familiarity with regional agencies, and an understanding of how statewide issues affect Fremont.

Economic growth and public safety are her top concerns.

She said her first initiative as a council member would be to get the council to visit biotech companies and find out how to bring more of them to Fremont. She also said she would support tax breaks for companies that supply high-income jobs.

"With our position in Silicon Valley, we shouldn't be losing the fight to get some of these folks in emerging industries," she said.

Like several other candidates, she hopes that economic growth can pay for more police officers. If it can't, Tahmasbi said she would consider asking residents to tax themselves for it.

She wants to encourage "green" building in Fremont, but would not have supported the failed effort this year to outlaw plastic-foam food packaging or plastic grocery bags.

Tahmasbi said she sees Fremont continuing to grow, but not to the point that it would cease to be a suburb. She'd like to see the city attract more high-end retailers and build a wider variety of new homes, including lofts and live-work units.

And no matter what happens in November, she said she plans to stick around.

"I'm running because I want to serve," she said. "If I don't get elected, I'll find another way to serve the community."

Fremont reporter Matthew Artz can be reached at 510-353-7002 or martz@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog posts at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.