Irvine, CA – Since moving to Orange County 16 years ago, Iranian American Shiva Farivar has played an integral role serving the community and working to open new doors for the next generation of Iranian Americans. Her work in local public schools, city government, and advocacy organizations demonstrate her unwavering commitment to her community. This dedication culminated in her decision to run for Irvine City Council on this November’s ballot.
Orange County boasts one of the largest Iranian-American communities (many say second only to Los Angeles), and Irvine is at the center of it – geographically, financially and culturally. There are many businesses based in the city, as well as the University of California, Irvine (UCI), the city’s largest employer. Recently, the New York Times profiled OC – and singled-out Irvine – as an evolving Southern California city rich in diversity.
“Irvine is doing quite well. The city is clean, safe, our children are in good hands at school,” Shiva recently told NIAC during a break from campaigning. “We’re at the forefront of so many sectors – leading the way in energy and the environment. I am running for City Council to help build on that, to put Irvine on the national map in an unprecedented fashion.”
Born in Iran, Shiva grew up in Germany – first Mannheim and then Munich. At the age of 13, her family moved back to Tehran, where she attended the German school. In 1978, Shiva headed west to California for college, obtaining a double degree in Political Science and German from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She also began a graduate program in German Literature at UCSD but transferred after one year to UCI, where she worked as a Teaching Assistant in German language while finishing her studies.
Shortly thereafter, she got married and lived with her husband in San Francisco and Los Angeles before returning to Irvine in 1994. She quickly immersed herself in her children’s schools, volunteering on a variety of committees, planning events and working in the classrooms.
In 2005, then-Mayor Beth Krom hired Shiva as her Executive Assistant (today, Krom is running for Congress and has endorsed Shiva’s candidacy for City Council), providing unique exposure to the inner workings of local government. A year later, the mayor appointed Shiva to Irvine’s Community Services Commission (CSC), where she has spent the past three years as Chairwoman.
“We’re in charge of the parks and recreation program in Irvine, but it goes beyond that – we oversee all activities in the parks and at the fine arts center,” she states. “Along that line, we engage in outreach to nonprofits, cultural institutions, and educational institutions as well.”
“We have a very big portfolio in the sense that our responsibilities and duties affect the lives of all Irvine residents by providing services to all age groups and people from diverse backgrounds.”
Shiva is also a board member of the Irvine Iranian Parents Association (IIPA), a recently-founded group that seeks to provide insights on Persian culture and mentality (Shiva wrote the mission statement). Irvine school district has nearly 1,000 Persian students, and many of the teachers have had a difficult time understanding the families, culture and psyche of their students. In July 2008, the inaugural IIAPA Persia Summer Institute for Irvine teachers commenced.
Today, the IIPA collaborates with the Irvine Public School Foundation, professors from California State University, Fullerton and UCI’s Persian Center. “We have great academics who help us with the program and create a truly excellent forum for teachers to learn about their Iranian-American students,” she remarked.
Shiva is also involved in several civic and social organizations in Orange County, notably the Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County (NIPOC). As the area’s premier Iranian-American organization, NIPOC seeks to build stronger alliances among Iranian American professionals; to promote Persian heritage and culture; and to encourage the active participation of Iranian Americans in the social and civic arenas of American society.
For now, the mother of two hopes her candidacy and continued community service will help elevate the standing of the Iranian-American community as an integral, constructive member of American society.
“I would like to open the door for the next generation. I hope my candidacy will encourage and inspire young Iranian-Americans to be active in American civic life, to take part in the political arena by running for elected office, if they have the passion!”
To find out more about Shiva and her campaign, visit her website at www.shivafarivar.com.