Public service is what Sylvia Wilson was born to do. She just didn’t know how or what that would mean for her personally, but she knew that was what she was aiming for since she got her first taste at age 8 as a precinct captain for her local Congressmember in her hometown of Modesto.
“Growing up, my parents were very politically active and always having events at our home to raise money for different activities within our community. Plus, my mom was an educator and a guidance counselor who spent hours outside of work helping her students, so I got to see firsthand how rewarding it is to be of service,” said Sylvia. “Dad also helped in his job as superintendent of juvenile hall for 25 years.”
These days, with the full support of husband, Allen, and their three kids, Sylvia is doing what she was meant to do: supporting moms and families in Westchester and Los Angeles County. Recently elected to the Neighborhood Council, Sylvia is thrilled to represent North Kentwood.
“My campaign was mom-driven. Several of my mom friends held events in their homes to support me. Other moms canvassed throughout the neighborhood. I would not have won without the support of the moms of the community,” she said. “I’m working every day to make sure that they feel their families’ voices are all heard. I am super lucky!”
“We just love Westchester. There are so many businesses that are local that we can walk to or ride our bikes to, but we would love, love, love to have more. As the community continues to grow and attract more businesses that are family-friendly, the less we’ll have to go outside Westchester,” Sylvia noted.
She’s also making a difference in her day job as a family law attorney for the L.A. County Child Support Services. She’s been there for the past 18 years.
“Our whole purpose is to get money on behalf of the children involved in a case. We represent the best interests of the children and the County. For many of our families, without child support, they don’t have a safety net except for public assistance, so our program keeps a lot of families off public assistance. Every day when I go to work, I feel like I’m accomplishing something important on behalf of the people who live in my neighborhood. It’s offering a benefit all around. I love my job. It’s a great place to work,” Sylvia said.
Allen grew up across the country, 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. and Sylvia marvels how they almost didn’t meet. After attending the University of Virginia for his undergrad, master’s and doctorate in materials science and engineering, Allen accepted a job at Boeing in Southern California.
“I didn’t set out to move to Los Angeles, it’s where the job was located. I’ve been trying to get more of my friends to move here since, because I’ve grown to love it,” he said.
As chief engineer for the Materials and Processes Department at Boeing, his group is involved in selecting how satellites are made and from what materials. The night he met Sylvia, he was catching up with a friend and found himself at a social mixer at the Shade Hotel. Sylvia, self-professed “directionally challenged,” was on her way to the same mixer to meet some friends and got lost. She almost didn’t make it in time. When she saw Allen at the mixer, Sylvia told her friends that he was going to be her husband, even though they had never met.
“I never do this, but that night I bought him a drink. He’s so shy, it took him 20 minutes to come over!”
They’ve been married since 2009.
The couple have 7-year-old twins, Spencer and Alaina. They are in third grade and love to play Pokemon cards and Beyblades, a battling spinning tops game. Skylar at 16 months, is the newest addition to the family. She will be attending Creative Explorers Preschool in the fall. Their family is rounded out by two energetic Maltese dogs, Jazz and Chelsea.
“We’re raising our kids in a similar manner to how I was raised, with the Golden Rule. We’re teaching them to be empathetic to other people and being aware of how their actions impact other people. We’re already getting the twins involved in helping our community,” Sylvia said. “It’s also important to expose them to some type of culture daily, whether that is visiting a museum, going to plays or just reading a book.”
The twins also help with projects and community service for local groups, including the MOMS Club of Westchester and Playa del Rey.
“We do so many things to support our local moms, like meal trains when a new baby is born and birthday cards to make every mom feel special,” Sylvia said.
She also helps produce the newsletter for the club.
“Being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job in the world and a lot of the members are stay-at-home moms. I know from my own experience that having a baby can be isolating. To know that you have that support behind you is wonderful,” Sylvia said. “We all know it takes a village and within this area there are so many different villages that you can utilize to make it as a family. That’s another reason I love it here in Westchester. You have multiple villages.”
After buying a home here in 2010, they knew they wanted to stay in Westchester.
“We never want to leave here. There are a lot of people who reach out to help and don’t expect anything in return. I feel like it’s a well-kept secret. There’s also a lot of history here, and we’ve heard so many stories of what Westchester was like in the 50s, 60s and 70s from our neighbor, Mary Ellen Cassman, who has lived in Westchester for over 50 years and helped start the Airport Marina Counseling Service,” Sylvia said. “It’s such a family-centered community, with generations of families staying here to raise their kids. You always seem to have people in common here. That’s one of my favorite things. It reminds me of my hometown, where everyone knows my mother. It’s just like that here.”
Earlier this year, Sylvia helped start the Facebook group “Parenting in Westchester, PDR and PV.” She is one of four administrators for the group, which has more than 800 members, all of whom either live in the area or whose children attend school in the community.
Allen noted, “Sylvia’s dedication to the community and our family is incredible. She puts in a lot of work on behalf of our family. I do, too, all for the benefit of the kids. They say kids make you a better person and that you learn a whole lot about yourself. That is absolutely true.”
Sylvia added, “Allen is an amazing dad. Every day he makes me a better person. He shows me each day the wonderful person he is, and he shows me the woman I want to be through our interactions.”
Posted September 2019. Story by Consuelo Israelson. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.