09:47 AM

Public service leadership student elected to Pasadena City Council

Jonathan Estrada and Jim Evans smiling in a courtroom
UHCL student Jonathan Estrada, left, is sworn in to Pasadena City Council by Associate Judge Jim Evans of the 507th Family District Court.

Jonathan Estrada chose University of Houston-Clear Lake's Bachelor of Science in Public Service Leadership as his program because it's what he wanted to do in his life. As the newly-elected councilman for Pasadena City Council District E, he's putting theory into immediate practice.

"The degree prepares students to start careers in public service, and the more I learned about the program, the more interested I became," Estrada said.

A Pasadena native, Estrada explained that he ran for city council because of his personal connection to Pasadena and his desire to work in local government. The more he read about the courses he'd be taking at UH-Clear Lake, the more he realized it was all right up his alley.

"I was worried about how things were going in my district," he said. "Things were not getting done. I was becoming disappointed in how local government was operating. A lot of people were feeling neglected, infrastructure projects were not getting done."

When he saw there was an open seat on the council, Estrada decided to act. "I asked myself, if I don't run, who else is more passionate than me? Who else would work as hard as me?" he said. "I had four opponents, so there was a runoff, because none of us got over 50% of the vote in the first round."

He campaigned on improving sidewalks, streets, drainage, and getting curbside recycling to his district.

"Other parts of Pasadena has curbside recycling, but not my district," he said. "That's just one of those things that shows how a city can have inequities in services. I felt like my district was getting left behind, not getting what other parts of the city were getting," he said. "It was a call to service that I couldn't ignore. I couldn't wait for someone else to run and say they'd do this — and then not do it."

For more than six years, Estrada has served as a regulatory compliance coordinator for the City of Houston, also working in other Harris County departments, from the tax collector to the district clerk's office. He's also the Precinct 404 Chair in Pasadena.

He was also the first openly gay Pasadena City Council candidate. "It's part of who I am, and I'm open about it, although I didn't promote it in my campaign," he said. "That helps me in my role as city councilman, and it makes our council more diverse."

He said he was honored to receive an endorsement from the Victory Fund, which helps LGBTQ people run for office. "The CEO is Houston's former mayor, Anise Parker," he said. "They only endorse if you're a viable candidate, if you're open, and if you have a substantive plan to win."

He was sworn in on July 1 and has already attended two council meetings, some neighborhood association groups, and is actively meeting with department directors to talk about his priorities. "I work for the people — they're my boss. They will decide if they want me re-elected in two years," he said.

Estrada intends to receive his degree from UH-Clear Lake in fall 2022, and hasn't ruled out further studies.

"I can't think of any other program I could have chosen, with this being what I want to do as a profession," he said. "When I was elected, I knew this degree would help me in my profession. District E deserves a council member who will represent the community with passion and insight. I'm deeply committed to this work."

For more information about UHCL's Public Service Leadership program, go online.