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Maureen Recalde is a familiar face at local McDonalds restaurants — and beginning Nov. 1 you can vote to help her win a national competition. Recalde won the Southern California Regional Title in the “Voice of McDonald’s” competition and is one of 22 people from around the country competing for the national title and a $25,000 cash prize.

You might have seen Maureen Recalde behind the counter at one of Tehachapi’s two McDonalds restaurants. You might have heard her singing – at the Tehachapi Nazarene Church or during a school event (she is a 2007 Tehachapi High grad).

Now the 22-year-old Tehachapi woman has combined two of the loves of her life and has a chance to win the national "Voice of McDonald's" competition – and you can help her.

Last month Recalde was surprised to learn that she won the Southern California regional title in the international singing competition for McDonalds employees. She was chosen from more than 800 singers – all McDonalds employees -- who submitted music videos in the competition.

She’s in competition with 21 other regional winners for the national title – and voting begins Nov. 1. The competition carries a $25,000 cash prize and a chance to go on to the international level.

The next phase of the contest will be judged 50-50 on talent – as determined by a judging panel that will assess singing ability, creativity and stage presence – and Internet votes.

Recalde is featured on the official competition website – http://vom.mcdonalds.com/voting/UnitedStates  –  and beginning Nov. 1 website viewers will be able to watch the music video she recorded recently at Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood.

Although the competition is limited to McDonalds employees, anyone can vote and Recalde hopes her Tehachapi friends will vote for her – and vote often. There is no limit to the number of times one can vote.

Recalde has lived in Tehachapi since kindergarten – not counting three years away for college. Her mother, Maryann Paciullo, opened Tehachapi’s first McDonalds that year, near the corner of Highway 202 and Tucker Road.

She’s grown up with those golden arches and returned to Tehachapi last year determined to one day own a McDonalds herself. Currently she is the manager of Paciullo’s newest McDonalds at the Love’s Travel Center on East Tehachapi Boulevard.

“McDonalds has been a huge part of my life, as has Tehachapi,” Recalde said. “I love this community and feel like I know just about everyone.”

Recalde studied music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in England, but found that she wanted to return to her hometown.

She and Bryan Banford are engaged; both attended Tehachapi High and he also works at McDonalds (on Tucker Road).

It was at the Tucker Road McDonalds last month that Recalde learned she was the winner of the Southern California regional competition.

“A company handling PR for McDonalds contacted me and asked me to do an interview with Channel 17 about McDonalds adding apples to Happy Meals,” Paciullo said. “Then they asked me to have Maureen there, too, to provide the younger perspective.”

“I researched Happy Meals to get ready for the interview,” Recalde said.

But the Happy Meal interview was a set-up – as the cameras were rolling, a team from McDonalds showed up to announce that Recalde was winner of the Southern California competition – and get her reaction on video. Both mother and daughter were surprised.

For the regional competition she performed Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You.” The video was shot at Bakersfield's ASR studios in August without any studio manipulation.

For her entry in the national competition – a video that will debut online Nov. 1 – Recalde was sent with the other regional winners to record at Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood and chose Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” from a list of song choices.

With her video recorded and ready to debut online, Recalde is back to business at McDonalds, keeping the busy store going. In the television interview, she said she has “ketchup in her veins.”

She seems to be taking the win – and subsequent requests to sing, such as a recent meeting of a Bakersfield Rotary Club – in stride, still handing out Happy Meals and coffee at McDonalds.

And she has high praise for the woman who brought McDonalds to Tehachapi – and has employed hundreds of young people through the years.

“She’s definitely an inspiration to me,” Recalde said of Paciullo.

“Business wise at McDonalds, but also in my life. She’s always pushing me to be my best, encouraging me to pursue my dreams.”