A Leadership Gap?

Hispanic Leaders
Hermiston's Hispanic Advisory Committee is actively trying to recruit more leaders from within the Hispanic community.

[quote style=”2″]Hispanic Committee in Search of New Leaders[/quote]

Ralph Nader once said that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Producing more leaders is exactly what the Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee is attempting to do. New leaders within the city’s Hispanic community is a re-occurring theme at HAC meetings. On Monday, the committee spent a good bit of time on the topic.

“We need more leaders in the Hispanic community,” HAC Chairman Eddie de la Cruz said. “We’re getting burned out.” The members serve as a liaison between the Hispanic community and the city’s elected officials. For the past two and a half years, the committee has been at the forefront of several high-profile issues and events, ranging from immigration reform to supporting passage of November’s driver card ballot measure to planning and organizing the city’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and advising the Hermiston City Council in its efforts last year to pass a mobile food vendor ordinance.

Three of its members – Manuel Gutierrez, George Anderson and Clara B. Fitzgerald – either currently serve or will be serving on the city council. And they all have day jobs. Anderson, serving as representative of the city council, will be off the committee at the end of the year after deciding not to seek another term on the council.

In an effort to spread the workload, the committee recently expanded its membership from seven to nine, but it’s rare when all nine are at the committee’s monthly meetings. One member, Fawny Vernon, has been absent for several months, prompting Anderson to recommend her removal from the committee.

George Anderson
George Anderson, who represents the Hermiston City Council on the Hispanic Advisory Committee, says the committee needs to look beyond politics to find new leaders.
“Fawny hasn’t been at a meeting for six or seven months,” Anderson said at Monday night’s meeting. “I’ve tried calling her and e-mailing her and haven’t gotten a response. I hate to do this, but I recommend we ask the city council to remove her and appoint someone else.”

And that’s what the committee did on Monday night. If the council does remove her, there will be four openings on the committee, as the terms of de la Cruz, Gutierrez and Virginia Garcia will soon be up. Burned out or not, all three have either re-applied or will re-apply for their seats, leaving unanswered the question of where to find new Hispanic community leaders.

Politics plays a big part of the committee’s work, but Anderson suggested looking elsewhere to find fresh faces for the committee.

“One way to find more leaders is to have more Hispanic activities other than just politics,” he said. Anderson suggested the committee work with a group that is trying to form a Hispanic cultural organization.

“From that group, I think more Hispanic leaders will come,” he said. “They pop up in unexpected places.”

Fitzgerald said some people may shy away from stepping into leadership positions out of a sense they lack the necessary experience. But, she said, leadership skills are like anything else, a person develops them as they take on more responsibility.

“People may think they don’t have much to contribute, but it’s a learning curve,” she said. “You learn as you go along.”

The deadline to apply for a seat on the Hispanic Advisory Committee is May 30. Applications can be picked up at Hermiston City Hall.

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