Jonathan Estrada, a 28-year-old gay Hispanic public servant, is vying to make history as the first out LGBTQ person to serve on the Pasadena City Council.
On May 1, Estrada ranked first among four contenders for the city’s District E seat. The race was too close to call, so a runoff election between Estrada and Joseph “JT” Thomas will decide the winner on June 15.
Estrada and Thomas both seek to replace Cody Ray Wheeler, who is being forced out by term limits. During the general election, Estrada won the most votes with 39 percent, and Thomas followed with 35 percent. The third-place candidate was Maria Morales, who has since fully endorsed Estrada.
How did Estrada manage to come out on top in last month’s election? “We really put in the work,” he states, “and I think the voters saw that. We block-walked, met everyone we could, every chance we could. We knocked on something like 2,000 doors. It was a great experience for getting to know our voters and neighbors better, and that really matters.”
While Estrada is the likely winner, nothing is certain. Some say Pasadena is caught in a time warp. For example, almost 70 percent of the city’s population is Latinx, but only two of its eight Council members come from Latinx backgrounds. Additionally, most of the Council members are over 40 years old, and none are women.
Young Estrada represents the future. Even though he would face issues that can challenge even a seasoned legislator, his knowledge, willingness, and boundless energy could serve his constituents well.
And Estrada knows his district. He grew up there, attended Sam Rayburn High School, and with his eyes set on public service, enrolled in the political science and government program at the University of Houston-Downtown. The candidate is currently participating in a UH-Clear Lake initiative that prepares students for local, state, and federal public service.
“My true interests lie in local, grass-roots government. That’s where it all starts,” he says, smiling.
Estrada’s experience with municipal and county administration is impressive. For the past seven years, he has served as a regulatory compliance coordinator for the City of Houston. And when he isn’t studying at UH-Clear Lake, he is serving as the Precinct 404 chair in Pasadena, and as a member of the Pasadena Historical Society.
As for his platform, one of Estrada’s greatest concerns is Pasadena’s aging infrastructure, which he knows is critical to the city’s future.
“I am the only candidate who has an infrastructure background. I can go in and identify areas that need improvements. I understand the workings of the government, and I can navigate it,” he emphasizes. “District E has been overlooked for a decade, but I know what it needs and how to get it.”
The good news is that Pasadena is moving beyond its image as a bleak industrial suburb. Last year, digital real-estate giant Zillow partnered with Yelp to recognize Pasadena as one of America’s ten most exciting “under the radar” suburbs. The city was awarded fifth place nationally, based on its amenities, livability, and affordable housing. It is the only Texas suburb that made the list.
“Pasadena is a great community, and District E deserves a council member who represents it with deep passion and understanding. My experiences demonstrate my drive to improve and advocate for our city, and I am ready to serve,” Estrada concludes with a smile.
To learn more about Jonathan Estrada and donate or volunteer for his campaign, visit estradaforpasadena.com.