BY SONDRA PEEDEN
Former City Councilmember Juanita E. Watkins passed on Sunday, January 20 after a long illness.
Watkins grew up in Brooklyn, was an excellent student and the first from her family to go to college. She attended the State University of New York at New Paltz, and attended Teachers College at Columbia University where she earned her master’s degree. Upon graduation, she became an elementary school teacher. After several years, she moved on to the field of educational publishing at McGraw Hill.
Watkins also served as a Commissioner on the NYC Civil Service Commission. During her political career, she served in many functions including: delegate and member to the Democratic National Convention, Queens County Democratic District Leader and Queens County Committee Chair.
She became the first woman of color to represent a City Council district, and after her first term of office, she went on to win two subsequent elections and served three terms in the City Council representing the 31st Council District.
While on the Council, often at the detriment of her own health, Watkins was a champion for small business, education, women’s rights, the poor, the elderly and the disenfranchised.
Watkins is pre-deceased by her mother and best friend Floretta Watkins, and is survived by her beloved niece and goddaughters.
Also saddened by her loss are members of her City Council staff and her extended political family in the Assembly and Senate.
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