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Enrique Fernandez, Class of 2016

Fernandez.jpgEnrique Fernandez ’16 is the youngest-ever mayor of Woodland, Calif. He successfully campaigned for Woodland City Council while he was still a student at King Hall. He is also a co-founder of a small Sacramento-area land development company.

What do you enjoy about being mayor of Woodland?

 I thoroughly enjoy being in a position to have a positive influence on my community. I’ve focused a lot of my effort on youth issues. I’ve led the development of the first Summer at City Hall program this summer. The program trains kids in the functions of local government and political advocacy, and it gives them the opportunity to job-shadow city employees. Thus, kids see a wide range of career options. We provided this opportunity to about two dozen kids. I think that it’s imperative for community leaders to equip kids with a base level of civics-IQ and political advocacy skills before they leave home. These skills allow them to be productive citizens and community leaders. I’m also developing a city-wide youth internship program, which will launch in summer 2019.

Moreover, it’s also important to me to be able to represent people in our community who historically have not had a voice. I enjoy drawing attention to issues that matter to residents or groups of residents who generally don’t get political attention.

What are you proudest of accomplishing as mayor or on the city council?

Early in my council term, we were adopting the Woodland General Plan. I fought hard to prevent the inclusion of a growth plan that would allow for suburban sprawl. I wasn’t able to exclude a particular specific growth plan from growth forecast that would allow Woodland to grow in an unsustainable fashion. However, I—along with the leadership of a council colleague—was able to secure a procedural safeguard to combat any future attempts at unsustainable suburban sprawl. It was a welcome consolation to a hard-fought battle.

I’m also proud of my fight to declare Woodland as a sanctuary city. Despite explaining that such a designation violated no constitutional provision nor any empty executive order, I was unable to gather the political support for a resolution to pass. Still, I feel as though I was able to highlight how valuable undocumented immigrants are to the Woodland community.

It seems typical of a politician to spin failures into victories, but I’m proudest of those moments where I’ve followed my moral compass.  

What challenges are you facing right now or do you expect to face?

Homelessness is the major challenge that I’m addressing right now. It’s an epidemic up and down the state. I believe every form of government has a responsibility to play a part in solving this wide-sweeping issue. We are looking at developing a temporary resettlement camp as well as permanent housing. Some people don’t believe it’s the city’s job to solve this problem (i.e., they’d rather just find a way to bus people out of town). But I will continue to push to find a solution, at the local level, that affords our city and our homeless community dignity.

The homelessness issue ties to the general housing crisis California is facing. We need more of the right type of housing in Woodland. Thus, we need to make it easier for developers to build high-density infill projects. We’ve approved a 14-unit townhome infill project in February. It was the first project to utilize the progressive zoning parameters set by our General Plan. I’ve been trying to get our impact fees reduced to incentivize the type of development that we want to see, i.e., sustainable, infill development.

What led you to the city council?

I’ve always had a passion for service. I campaigned for city council while I was still a student at King Hall. After graduating from Berkeley as an undergrad, I came back to Woodland to coach football and mentor high school kids. I connected with Tom Stallard ’75 and ran his 2012 city council campaign. Then, I worked for the Obama campaign in Iowa. When I saw Donald Trump running for president, I thought, “I’m a nice guy, and I know how to organize and win an election. So, maybe I shouldn’t sit idly by.”

What is your favorite King Hall memory?

Meeting my girlfriend Nicole Zanardi ’17. We met at her 1L welcome barbecue. She’s currently an all-star public defender in Alameda County. It’s been inspiring watching her work hard to defend the U.S. Constitution and the rights of those that are often overlooked by society. Another favorite is meeting and building a friendship with Professor Cruz Reynoso. I met him at my 1L welcome barbecue, and we’ve stayed friends. If everyone had 10 percent of the heart that Cruz Reynoso has, this world would be a utopia.

Did you participate in student organizations?

Outside of Friday softball, I didn’t participate in any student organizations. Being so close to Woodland, I was more focused on maintaining my involvement in my home community. I served on the Woodland Parks and Recreation Commission while in law school. I also organized food bank fundraisers at elementary schools and led some other community initiatives.

Do you have any advice for current law students?

This is something I regret not doing: taking courses or participating in organizations that provide you with practical skills, like Moot Court, Mock Trial, the Negotiations Team, externing, one of the clinics, etc. Those are the types of activities that will put you ahead of the game with starting your career.

Lastly, if you really embrace the service-oriented atmosphere and culture of King Hall, then things will turn out just fine in your personal and professional lives. If you’re focused on contributing to the world, on helping others, and you incorporate that into the essence of who you are, people will notice and they’ll want to work with you and associate with you.