BY ALEXANDRA ALPERT
“Knocking on the doors of people in the community, folks shared with me that this was the first time a candidate was speaking to them in Spanish … that really energized me,” Jacob Hernandez said.
Jacob T. Hernandez, who joined the College Park City Council as a District 1 representative on Dec. 5, is the only candidate elected in November who has not previously served on the city council. He is also the city’s only Hispanic American councilmember.
According to U.S. Census data, College Park’s population is 18% Hispanic or Latino.
Hernandez, now 31, joined the U.S. Airforce when he was 17 years old, and graduated from the University of Arizona. He earned his master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2018, and bought a home for the first time in College Park in 2020.
“College Park just spoke to me. It was vibrant; it was diverse” he said, noting that access to quality medical care for his mother and local schools for his siblings were factors in his decision to settle here.
Hernandez is a hostage affairs officer in the U.S. Department of State. He is also a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
In his campaign for city council, Hernandez said his goals were enhancing communication, improving education and helping residents navigate bureaucratic hurdles to make progress on issues that matter to them.
Of these three goals, Hernandez says enhancing communication is key.
“It’s only through our united organized voices that we are going to be able to facilitate the greater projects and programs that I have in store,” he said.
Hernandez believes that College Park residents share similar desires for improvements but struggle to organize because of cultural divisions.
“My goal is to try to bridge those subcultures together in order to facilitate and lead some productive change,” he said.
During a candidate forum sponsored by the College Park Here & Now in October, Hernandez addressed residents in both English and Spanish.
At that event, Hernandez said he prides himself on leadership and empathetic listening skills that he said he learned from his parents, who were immigrants to the United States.
Hernandez hopes to strengthen relationships between the City of College Park and local public education leaders to help improve conditions in the city’s public schools. He also aims to address overcrowding at public schools and plans to host multilingual information sessions for parents who speak English as a second language.
Hernandez will represent District 1 alongside Councilmember Alan Hew, who replaced then-councilmember Fazlul Kabir. Kabir is now the city’s mayor.
In an interview with the Here & Now, Hew said that Hernandez is young and motivated, and he looks forward to working with Hernandez on further integrating the Latino community in College Park.
“I would hope to create a Latino pride committee [with Hernandez],” said Hew.
Hernandez’ pride was evident when Kabir swore him in on Dec. 5, first in English, and then again in Spanish. “While I know that I represent District 1, I also represent the Spanish-speaking residents across the city,” he said.
The views expressed by Jacob Hernandez in the article above are those of Hernandez in his personal capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, Department of State, or the U.S. Government.