Unable to ignore the call of public service, Jonathan Estrada, a 28-year-old openly gay Hispanic man, is running for Pasadena’s City Council District E seat. Although the Pasadena native will face issues that would challenge even the most seasoned legislator, his warmth, charm, and unrelenting energy will serve him well.
“When people identify problems in Pasadena—be they street repairs, drainage issues, or crime—they always say, ‘Why hasn’t our city done something about that?’ Then I think, ‘Well, maybe it’s me who should do something about that. If not me, who?’” Estrada says with a smile.
Since the incumbent council member for District E is term limited, and no one else has registered to run for the position, Estrada will be the likely winner of the May 1 election. He would become the first openly gay person to serve on the Pasadena City Council.
Growing up in Pasadena, Estrada attended Sparks Elementary, San Jacinto Intermediate, and Sam Rayburn High School. With his sights set on public service, he enrolled in the political science and government program at the University of Houston-Downtown. He is currently participating in a UH-Clear Lake initiative that prepares students for local, state, and federal public service. “Local government sparks my passion. That’s where it all starts,” he says. “I recently bought my first home in District E so I could stay and serve the community that I love.”
Estrada’s municipal and county government experience is hard to match. For the past six years, he has served as a regulatory compliance coordinator for the City of Houston. He has also worked in various Harris County departments, from the tax collector to the district clerk. 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.
“I understand the workings of the government, and I can navigate it,” he says. “District E has been overlooked for a decade, but I know what it needs and how to get it.”
Estrada isn’t the only one who has faith in his ability to lead. Jennifer Halvorson is the president of Area 5 Democrats in Pasadena, the oldest grassroots organization dedicated to supporting Democratic candidates in Texas. Halvorson first worked with Estrada in 2014 during Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor, and she was impressed by his commitment and vision from the start. “Jonathan has a true flair for government. He is also a warm and engaging person. He listens carefully when people tell him how they feel and what they need.
“People don’t often realize that a city council member has more impact on a citizen’s day-to-day life than a president. It is a very important position. With his tremendous potential, Jonathan will help move the city forward, and District E is sure to benefit,” Halvorson says.
Although 65 to 70 percent of the city’s population is Hispanic/Latinx, only a third of the Pasadena City Council members are of Hispanic origin. The good news is that Pasadena is moving beyond its image as an industrial suburb with few amenities. Last October, digital giant Zillow partnered with Yelp to recognize Pasadena as one of America’s ten most exciting “under the radar” suburbs in 2020. The city was awarded fifth place nationally, based on the area’s amenities, livability, and affordable housing. It is the only Texas city that made the list.
“District E deserves a council member who represents our community with passion and insight,” Estrada says. “My experience demonstrates my drive to advocate for our district. I believe Pasadena is ready for an openly gay council member, and that I am the right person. I am deeply committed to the work—I just don’t see it any other way.”
For more information or to speak with Jonathan Estrada, visit estradaforpasadena.com.
This article appears in the February 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.