ANTIOCH -- As a teenager, Monica Wilson's first experience in Antioch was competing as a track athlete in the Chuck Stapleton relays.

Years later, she finds herself racing out of political starting blocks as a first-time city councilwoman -- and the first black woman to serve in such a role here.

Before Wilson could even adjust her chair at her first meeting last week, the City Council considered issues about appointing a fifth council member and reinstating a more lucrative pension formula for city employees.

"I've definitely had to hit the ground running," Wilson said. "It's exciting, nerve-racking and a little bit scary."

Taking on challenges is nothing new for Wilson, as the San Rafael native has taken on several new roles in her professional career. Now an executive assistant to the vice president of student affairs and dean of students at Mills College, Wilson, 44, worked in the marketing and business development realm after graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Wilson's job had her living all throughout United States before her employer, Online Documents Inc. relocated her to back to the Bay Area in 2006.

Wilson, who settled in Antioch, lost that job when the company shut down in 2008.

"It was a frightening experience, worrying about what was going to happen next," she said.

Wilson started assisting with local political campaigns, which "became a full-time job." She was also appointed to Antioch's economic development commission and started attending City Council meetings.

When it became known that one of the Antioch council seats would be open, Wilson says she "took a leap of faith" and decided to run.

"I wanted to see the city move forward. A lot of people told me it's too soon and nobody knows who you are," Wilson said.

At one point, Wilson asked family and close friends if she was making the right decision.

"They said go for it and prove them wrong," she said.

Supporters and political colleagues of Wilson say her hard work, determination and eagerness to learn about issues will help her be a good leader.

"She's intelligent and has a lot of fresh ideas and energy," said resident Beverly Knight, who met Wilson during the campaign after emailing her. "I think she's a doer."

Adds Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla: "This isn't something that just fell in her lap, she tried to meet with as many voters as she could, and will work hard to represent the community. Monica really does care deeply about the people she wants to serve."

Now that she's settling in, Wilson is ready to move ahead with her campaign goals of boosting the local economy, creating jobs, increasing civic pride and putting Antioch on the map for positive reasons.

"It's going to be very exciting to see the good things happening in Antioch because of her leadership," Bonilla said. "She will serve very well."

Antioch must also try to find ways to fund more police officers and city workers in other departments, Wilson said.

"At the end of the day it's about making what you think is the right decision," Wilson said. "It's impossible to make everybody happy with your decisions, but it's important to be thoughtful about it and do what's best for the city."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

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