Yuba City woman named first female Sikh mayor in the U.S.

Preet Didbal.
Preet Didbal.

Vice Mayor Preet Didbal will be sworn in as Yuba City’s mayor at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, making her the first Sikh woman to hold the highest elected office in an American city.

City council members rotate into the mayor and vice mayor positions every year based on vote count, outgoing mayor Stanley Cleveland Jr. said. Didbal also became the first Sikh woman elected to a U.S. city council in 2014 following eight years on the Yuba City Planning Commission and two years on the Sutter County Planning Commission.

“I like it when people think issues through and do their research, and she does that. She’s very thoughtful,” Cleveland said. “She’s just a good person to work with.”

Thousands of Sikhs have settled in Yuba City due in part to the surrounding region’s fertile soil. Last year’s Sikh Parade Festival was the largest gathering of the religion’s members outside of India.

Ravi Bhalla fended off racist fliers depicting him as a terrorist to be elected mayor of Hoboken, N.J., earlier in November, making him the second Sikh mayor of a major American city.

Didbal is a graduate of Yuba City High School and Sacramento State and earned an MPA with a concentration in health administration from University of San Francisco. She works as a process improvement adviser for the State Compensation Insurance Fund.

Congressman John Garamendi named Didbal one of his district’s Women of the Year in 2015 for her efforts to improve Sutter County’s youth programs and women’s health offerings.

Shon Harris, the Yuba City California Highway Patrol office’s commander, is expected to replace Didbal as vice mayor, Cleveland said.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel