Meet 19-Year-Old Ismael Fernández, Elected to Idaho’s First All-Latino City Council

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In Wilder, Idaho – where 75 percent of the population is Latino – a completely Latino city council has taken shape. And 19-year-old College of Idaho student Ismael Fernández is one of the council members who will influence law in Wilder. Mayor Alicia Almazán’s city council group includes Tila Godina, Robert Rivera, and Guadalupe García. Univision reports that this is the first all-Latino city council in Idaho.

Fernández, who is studying Spanish and history at school, says that many of the city’s 1,500 residents were former migrant workers who decided to settle in Wilder. When he launched his campaign, he was going up against more experienced people. “I didn’t expect to win, simply because of the number of candidates and the experience they had,” he said. “When the day of the election came, I told myself that I just didn’t want to come in last place.”

Instead, Fernández won and surprised his grandmother. “When I called my grandmother to told her I won, she asked me, ‘Are you sure?’” he added. His grandmother played a big role in helping him get elected.

In June 2015, he made his decision to run, and he was told to wait until later in the year to start campaigning. By October, he couldn’t wait any longer and started going door-to-door to people that his grandmother said exercised their right to vote, according to Idaho Press. His grandmother volunteered at poll locations, so she knew exactly who would show up come election day.

City council wasn’t his first taste of politics. Fernández held a set in the Juvenile Justice Commission and worked as a page in the 2013 legislature. He used his own experience with bullying to help pass an anti-bullying law in 2015.

He already has one way he wants to improve his town. Because there’s no Walmart or pharmacy in Wilder, many people go to neighboring Caldwell to get what they need. It may be easy for younger people to get around, but it’s not easy for the elderly who can’t drive.

“I want to help them get to where they need to go, maybe with shuttle that will take and pick them up from rural areas,” he said. “It’s difficult for older people who can’t drive to go out to bigger cities, like Caldwell, so they can get the things they need.”

He also wants to funnel more money to local infrastructure, but his looking out for the abuelitos of Wilder is truly heartwarming.