Hector Gutierrrez participated in the Latin@/x Political Leadership Program in Washington, DC in 2018, where he says he made the final decision to run for office. He then went on to do a deep dive into campaign planning & strategy through the Ready to Run program in Los Angeles, CA in 2019.
His election was in November 2019, and in a stunning upset, Hector won his race to become the next City Council Member of Forest Park, Georgia from Ward 3. He is the first Latin@/x official to be elected in the city of Forest Park, and second in the Lovejoy county.
Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?
What led me to care deeply about educational equity is my upbringing. Growing up in a low-income neighborhood and a single-parent household, I felt like I have broken many barriers. I became an educator to make a difference in and impact children’s lives. I wanted to provide support to students that have a similar upbringing as myself.
I recently became an elected official to make an impact on a greater scale. My city had a past representative that did not look like our city and I was fortunate enough to be motivated by LEE to do something about it. Hopefully now in my new position, I can make changes that will benefit our community.
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?
LEE sparked the fire and gave me confidence along with the resources to run for office. By attending the different conferences, I got inspired by the stories and seeing people that look like me in elected spaces. As a southern Hispanic, not many people that look like me run, or are elected into spaces to make decisions. Besides the conferences, I have had on-the-ground support by the LEE staff in Atlanta - mainly Jonathan Leon and TJ Copeland. I have called them at all hours of the day and they have supported me in my campaign, life and any type of emotional distress I was feeling while I was running for office.
Because of the LEE culture of a family, I feel indebted to give back to LEE for supporting me and believing in me. I was also able to secure employment through one of the LEE Fellowships.
Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?
I am currently a second-grade teacher. I have stayed in the classroom since my Teach for America days. My impact varies with both of my positions. I am still in education because I love being a teacher, but I am also a Forest Park City Councilman. I am confident that I will be bringing positive change within the leadership in my city and the citizens’ view and perspective of our local government. I have just begun my government role, but I look forward to implementing progress.
What drove you to run for office and what was the experience like? How did the Latin@/x Political Leadership Program help you in your election?
The Latin@/x Political Leadership Program in Washington, D.C. in 2018 was where I made my decision to run for office. I had thought about running for my local school board, but I was so motivated that weekend that I could not wait for the next elections to come around so I ran for city councilman.
LEE has been a tremendous support for me during the pre-candidate stage as well as the candidate stage; I have always felt the confidence and knowledge coming from the staff. Their confidence and experience would help put me at ease, regardless of the situation.
My biggest obstacle would have to be asking for money. I just naturally didn’t feel comfortable doing it but LEE helped me, not only financially, but with support in how to ask for money and letting people understand that this is an investment in themselves. But, out of all of this, I would have to say that my biggest support came from the friendships with LEE members and how confident they made me feel in what I was doing.
What do you see as your role in achieving your vision for educational equity?
I am a newly elected official with an educational background, not a political one. I will be learning as I go. I look forward to being open-minded and bringing my City Council and Mayor together. I know that there are a lot of differences amongst the team and walking into it, but I’m looking forward to learning from both sides and hopefully unifying them.
As far as my involvement with LEE, I hope to give back as much as I can. I am very grateful for their part in my campaign and for the support they have provided me.
*The above interview has been transcribed and is in subjects' own words, with minor edits for clarity or brevity.
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For more information about the Diversity in Elected Leadership Series and/or other elected leadership opportunities, connect with German Cash, Director of Learning, Development, and Inclusion.