Esmeralda Hurtado has her priorities straight these days.
▪ Complete tasks and reading for Fresno City College, where she is studying public health. Check.
▪ Get to her seventh- and eighth-grade, after-school teaching classes at Sanger Unified School District. Check.
▪ Attend and prepare for meetings of FCC’s Alpha Gamma Sigma, where she is the honor society president. Check.
▪ Prep for Sanger City Council meetings. Check.
“It’s been a busy schedule,” said the 21-year-old Hurtado the day after she was sworn in to the Sanger City Council as the replacement for her older sister, Melissa Hurtado, in District 1.
Hurtado was not so busy to make sure she made it on time last Friday for her sister’s ceremonial swearing-in ceremony as the first Latina from the Fresno area to serve on the state Senate.
That’s OK. The state Senator, who represents the 14th state Senate District, got caught in traffic and was unable to make it for her younger sister’s swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday evening.
After getting sworn in by city manager Tim Chapa, the youngest of three children born to María and Mel Hurtado plunged into life as a public official listening to residents complain about a housing element update that required the city to identify 68 acres for housing units to satisfy state demands. In the end, the council decided to send the issue back to the city planning commission for consideration of additional properties that could be added.
Hurtado was sworn in shortly after 6 p.m. Her city council work ended at 10:30 p.m.
Hurtado was among six candidates interested in the vacant position on the five-member council. The council voted 3-1 for Hurtado, who was born and raised in Sanger.
In the letter she submitted to the council expressing her interest to succeed her sister, Hurtado listed infrastructure needs in District 1. Those included new pavement and widening of Geary Avenue and gutter repairs on 8th Street between K and L streets.
“I have witnessed the much-needed improvements made to this district over the last couple of years, but there is more work to be done,” she said.
Hurtado, who hopes to go into family medicine or pediatrics, was encouraged by her father to go for the council position. Other friends backed her too.
“That gave me the courage to say, ‘I want to do something for my city,’” said Hurtado, who spoke with district residents.
How about her older sister?
“She gave me advice as well,” said Hurtado, who called her first council meeting “a great experience.”
“I knew there were a lot of great candidates who were ready to serve District 1,” she said.
She prepped by meeting with district residents. After she was selected, she met with various municipal department heads. Attending a city council meeting was not new to her either.
Although Hurtado did not go through an election, she joins a wave of Latinas who made headlines with their electoral wins.
“I think it has a lot to do with the political climate right now where voters wanted to be heard. They went out and voted,” said Hurtado. “That’s why we saw a lot of changes in our area.
“That’s a good thing for our communities. There’s people representing them.”
Among those Latinas who have succeeded, in addition to her sister, are Annalisa Perea and Magdalena Gómez (State Center Community College District board), and 18-year-old Jewel Hurtado on the Kingsburg City Council.
Jewel, who is also a student at Fresno City College, is not related to the Hurtados in Sanger.
“We are friends,” said Esmeralda Hurtado. “We’ve helped in many events and been out in the community as delegates.
“It brings joy to see that we’re both young and serving our community.”
So, does Esmeralda Hurtado have bigger political plans in her future?
Not necessarily. She is focused on college and her city council duties right now.
“I’m very passionate about what I do in my community, and very passionate about what I do in college,” said Hurtado. “I’m looking forward to what will happen next.”