In a choice between experience and a new, diverse perspective, Ernesto Lopez was unanimously chosen to fill the seat recently vacated by Jess Bradfield on the Logan Municipal Council.
“I will represent all of Logan, not just the Hispanic community,” he said, “but I will represent my people and their strength and their voice. That needs to be heard as well.”
Lopez — originally from Tijuana, Mexico — may be the first Latinx or Hispanic representative to serve on the council.
He was among 15 candidates who applied for the position and was one of two finalists. The other finalist was former Council Member Dean Quayle who had said he would not run for reelection after the conclusion of the interim term on Dec. 31, 2021.
Over the course of three and a half hours of interviews and discussion, a larger group was whittled down to five candidates: Utah State University ecologist and professor Paul Rogers, marketer at Malouf Keegan Garrity, executive director and chief curator of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art Katie Lee-Koven, Quayle, and Lopez, an instructional designer with USU Extension.
“I didn’t know Ernesto before tonight, but I’d met him before,” said Council Member Mark Anderson. “I know Dean, and I know what we’ll get from Dean, which is outstanding, but I’d like to see a new perspective.”
Council Member Tom Jensen echoed the remark and added “engaging people from the Latino community is important. Dean is a safe vote, but I welcome Ernesto coming and being able to engage populations I think are unrepresented.”
A diverse pool
In his application to the council, Lopez stated “Serving my community is central to my values.” In addition to his work at USU, Lopez has served on numerous community boards, such as chair for the Logan City Library Latino Advisory Council and the Educational Excellence for Latinos initiative at Logan High School, along with church involvement.
“I believe leadership needs dedication,” he told the council. “Now, as community leader, I work for cultural awareness.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, about 15% of the population in Logan is Hispanic.
Mayor Holly Daines said the council’s decision reflects the city’s desire to be more inclusive.
“We had a great pool of candidates that really represented the viewpoints of different sectors of the community,” she said.
On top of the racial diversity among candidates, of the 14 people interviewed, nine were men, four were women and one was nonbinary.
Education and representation
Lopez, who was recruited to USU after completing high school in Southern Idaho, said civic education will be a priority in his interim tenure.
“Before applying for this position, there was very little that I knew about how the city council worked, and what it takes to be involved,” he told The Herald Journal after the meeting. “I’d like to push for more education of the community on what the council does, what does it take to be part of the council, and why it’s important to be part of the council. And to reach out to those underrepresented sectors of the population and say, ‘Hey, you can do this as well.’”
Lopez’s children, Kaleb, 13, and Deborah, 15, have both participated in student councils, but said their father’s inclusion on the Logan Municipal Council is an amazing step for showing others how to get involved.
“A lot of times, a lot of the Hispanic students wouldn’t want to participate in these types of things,” Deborah said, “and so my dad taking the initiative to run for this sort of activity is inspiring.”
Through his work at USU, Lopez has had experience with this kind of educational campaign. He designed a course that dove into local landfills and green-waste facilities.
“It was really eye-opening for me, especially about how they’re being redesigned to be more environmentally friendly,” Lopez told the council.
His experience did not go unnoticed by the council, as he was asked about the importance of Logan’s Green Waste facility in light of the council’s approval of a $0.50 increase in residents’ monthly bill for the service.
Another key component considered by the council was selecting a candidate to represent Logan’s west side, which included applicants Chase Anderson, Garrity, Quayle, Rogers and Lopez.
As the interim replacement on the council, Lopez will serve until Dec. 31, 2021, unless he decides to run for reelection next year for one of the two seats that will be up for grabs: currently held by himself and Chair Amy Anderson.
On the council’s last interim replacement where Council Member Jeannie Simmonds was selected, Anderson said not getting chosen made her realize how strongly she felt the desire to serve and encouraged those not selected on Tuesday to consider running in the 2021 election.