Felipe Hernandez, an Iraq War veteran and the son of an apple picker, says he has the experience and temperament to represent Watsonville and fight for the city’s interests. He cites his multiple endorsements and record of success as reasons voters should choose him for the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
I come from humble roots.
My father was an apple picker for Pecchenino Farms. My mother was a line worker at the Richard Shaw cannery. My parents made sure my brother and sister and I grew up knowing the value of a hard-earned dollar, education, and the importance of giving back.
I’m also a veteran. I served as a combat medic in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91. I went to Iraq just after high school and learned the importance of balancing stern and steadfast leadership with camraderie. Military service instilled in me the discipline needed in tough times. I needed that as a young man, and it has served as a valuable life lesson for me.
When I came home to Santa Cruz County, I attended classes at Cabrillo College and went on to earn a degree in community studies at UC Santa Cruz. I knew I wanted to serve my community, so I joined numerous groups including American Legion Post 121, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1716, and Santa Cruz Flood Control and Water Conservation District Zone 7.
I’ve also served on the Watsonville City Council for eight years from 2012-20, and served two terms as mayor pro-tem and one term as mayor. I currently work in Pajaro, Watsonville and Salinas as a coordinator at The LEAP Institute, which works with San Joaquin Valley families and farmworkers to achieve economic and environmental justice. Since 2020, I have served on the Cabrillo College board of trustees.
During my time as mayor and council member, I worked to ensure community safety during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when uncertainty was at its height. I brought jobs to Watsonville, added housing, championed safer streets for bikes and pedestrians, spearheaded the region’s best skate park and brought stakeholders together to build a world-class BMX pump track for our youth.
I vigorously campaigned to secure long-term funding for the Watsonville fire and police departments. I went door to door knocking to fundraise for Measure Y, which authorized the city to renew a 0.5% sales tax for public safety and which passed by 78.6%. I am the only candidate in the race who did this.
Manny Solano, former Watsonville police chief, said I “stood shoulder to shoulder with public safety,” and thanked me for making sure police had proper funding and equipment to protect lives.
One of my most exciting moments as mayor was introducing Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, when he came to Santa Cruz during his 2016 presidential bid.
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I always stand up for community members and look for ways to help them improve their lives. When Kaiser Permanente moved into the Crossroads shopping center, I negotiated a 90-day extension and fee-assistance program to ease the cost of relocating for the eight small businesses, and initiated a first-of-its-kind “cash mob” to assist the displaced.
I’m a consensus-builder. I see common ground everywhere. And I know how to lean on the positive relationships and partnerships I’ve built in the community to bring people together, address problems and improve lives. Even if I disagree with someone on a specific issue, if I have that positive working relationship, I’m able to find an area or issue where we do agree and collaborate to get something done.
Each vote on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors requires three votes. That means you have to get support from your colleagues. For me, building bridges, not burning them, is key to getting things done. You can’t be an island.
This is pivotal, because we have tremendous issues to conquer. We must construct new housing units that are affordable with access to public transportation and within walking distance of businesses and services. Supporting our small businesses and creating good-paying local jobs for residents in the Watsonville area is also key. We also must invest in our infrastructure by repairing our roads, increasing pedestrian safety, and building a multimodal transportation network for Santa Cruz County.
To tackle the complex issue of homelessness, I will establish a new multiagency task force, bringing together the county health department, public works and sheriff’s office to help unhoused residents get access to the services they need.
I think my long list of endorsements points to my ability to get things done, including from elected officials and former seat-holders, including: Bill Monning, former state Senate majority leader; Fred Keeley, former speaker pro-tem for the state Assembly; Jim Hart, Santa Cruz County sheriff; Manny Solano, former Watsonville chief of police; Terry Medina, former Watsonville chief of police; Gary Smith, former Watsonville fire chief; Marcela Tavantzis, former Watsonville city manager; Faris Sabbah, Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools; and endorsements from organizations including SEIU 521, SEIU 2015, California Nurses Association, Santa Cruz County Democratic Party, Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, Pajaro Valley Cesar Chavez Democratic Club, Santa Cruz for Bernie, and the Sierra Club.
I am the leader Watsonville needs. I have the experience, the connections and the ability to make a difference for our community.
Felipe Hernandez grew up in the Pajaro Valley, fought in Iraq, and attended both Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz. He currently works for The LEAP Institute, which advocates for environmental and economic justice for farmworker families. He has lived in Santa Cruz County for close to 50 years, with the exception of his military service. Find his campaign site at VoteForFelipe.com.