August 3rd, 2021 – Hello and thank you for taking the time to pose these questions. Gaithersburg is fortunate to have multiple candidates vying for the two open Council seats. My goal is to give the residents of Gaithersburg reasons to vote for me, instead of against my opponents. Here are my initial thoughts on your questions. I look forward to the continual dialogue, and learning process with our community.
Why are you qualified to be on the Gaithersburg City Council?
I believe an effective City Council member needs to be able to listen and learn from differing voices in our community in order to effectively represent all constituents, including residents and businesses. There are many people that need to come together, including the four other Councilmembers, the Mayor, and City staff, in order to successfully tackle the challenges faced by the City. My background, skills, temperament, approach, and experience on diverse HOA/Boards make me well suited for this role.
Throughout my life, I have successfully championed many ideas, from small to large, and advocated for responsible solutions to a wide variety of problems encountered. When serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, I was activated to the BP Oil Spill and worked tirelessly, sometimes on as little as three hours of sleep, towards the response and clean up efforts. I learned that sometimes in life there aren’t “best options” to choose from, and one has to pick from the least worst. That is part of leadership.
Since then, I co-founded and run a thriving local Life Sciences Company, serve on the Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board, am a member of the City’s Animal Control Board, and currently serve as Chair of the Kentlands HOA. Through all of these experiences, past and present, I’ve learned the value of collaboration and building up others to achieve common goals. My established track record of diverse experiences, accomplishments, and successes make me well suited to take on the variety of challenges that our community will face.
Why do you want to be on the City Council?
Personally, I believe a variety of life experience will make a more insightful and in tune City Councilmember. I come from very modest means. When I was in elementary school, my parents moved our family from Puerto Rico to Texas in order to provide better opportunities for my two brothers and me. Both my parents struggled to make ends meet and I remember how our family relied on Food Assistance Programs in order to put food on our table. My father worked as a minister, and my mom learned English to teach it in our local community. Having moved to the mainland U.S. not speaking any English, prior to starting school that fall, I spent most of my days learning to speak English by watching Sesame Street (Super Grover is still my favorite). Throughout all these hardships, hard work and service to others have been important values in our family, and were instilled in me from a very early age.
Gaithersburg is a diverse City, with people from different backgrounds and walks of life (e.g., in a span of 24hrs we had a great community event at Lakeforest Mall with Summer of Peace and then we had an outdoor classical music event in the Kentlands with Musica Viva). As I’ve gotten older, I realized that folks like myself who came from modest means and then later in life reach a certain level of success, can sometimes think in one of two ways:
1) I made it, see it wasnt so hard, everyone should be able to do it!
2) I was fortunate, lucky, helped by my community of mentors, friends, family, teachers, and others who are a key part of my success.
I firmly believe in the latter, #2. Without the support of all those around me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
By serving on the Council, I can help improve the quality of life for Gaithersburg residents. We are home to aspiring business owners, students, entrepreneurs, and families. If elected to the City Council, I will use my skills, abilities, and experiences to serve and advocate for our community.
If the City Council could only work on one issue, what would you choose?
There is a quote from Mike Tyson that applies here. “Everyone has a plan, until they are punched in the mouth”. As I look back at my scholastic, military, and job history, a common thread emerges. You rarely get to pick “one” big idea, or “one” big break, or only “one issue”. Further still, sometimes, without notice, the “issues” pick you. In order to be successful in this environment, an effective City Council member needs to prioritize and balance the many competing requests they face, while ensuring residents are heard on issues.
I don’t think it likely that the Gaithersburg local government will only face a single issue. However, we can and should set priorities, themes, and focus areas. Improving services, increasing transparency, and enhancing sustainability are key parts of my campaign. In the short-term our City will still grapple with recovery and resiliency from the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are lucky that the pandemic’s economic impacts on our City were not worse, it is nevertheless imperative that we reinvest in business owners and encourage new employers to choose Gaithersburg, while keeping our property tax rates in check. Long-term, as our City continues to grow, our local government should be advocating for responsible and sustainable solutions, including accounting for environmental, equitable, and modernized services.
What’s your vision for the Lakeforest Mall property?
Developers and landowners have brought and will bring plans for the Lakeforest Mall area to the City Council. It is the Council’s job to ensure those plans meet the goals and objectives of the City, balance the equities of multiple parties, and foster economic growth for the surrounding neighborhoods. The surveys conducted recently by the City show that our community residents want to see the mall transformed into a space that people throughout the City can enjoy, either as a mixed-use redevelopment or as a transformative entertainment and retail hub. Affordable/attainable housing must also be in the mix. If elected, I’ll continue the work of the current Council and listen to the suggestions of our residents, and research the options presented, in order to make well-informed decisions.
What’s your vision for Downtown Gaithersburg (the real downtown Summit and E. Diamond)?
While developers and landowners bring plans to the Council, the Council has to ensure those plans are thoroughly vetted, balance the equities of conflicting parties, foster economic growth, and will actually come to fruition. The Council should also guide, incentivize, suggest, and help developers towards these goals.
What I am not going to do is present a “10 Point Plan” that, like a magic wand, will pretend to solve all current ills. The issues are complex, and deserve careful consideration, learning, dialogue, diligence, and perseverance.
In my “Day Job”, I spend a lot of time and effort performing due diligence on possible partnerships, acquisitions, and related initiatives. I know what it takes to thoroughly investigate, understand opportunities, and ensure their viability. Downtown Gaithersburg, like all parts of Gaithersburg, will have my focused attention and energy so that it may reach its full potential.
To learn more about Yamil Hernández, go to VoteYamil.com.
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