EBCE Board Member Melissa Hernandez was 41 when she first ran for public office, a seat on the Dublin City Council, and 43 when she graduated from college. She had spent her adult years working and raising her two kids.
“My kids got to see me give back to my community, run for council, and graduate college,” she says. “They got to see me become who I am.”
“It was a good lesson, teaching them that they’ll have to work hard to accomplish what they want to accomplish.”
It was thanks to her kids that she got involved in local affairs, volunteering at their schools and Little League teams, then the Rotary Club, then on local government commissions like the Marketing & Branding task force and chairing the Human Services Commission. That led her to the City Council, where in 2016 — juggling a family, her studies, and a job — she became the first Latina ever elected to the Council.
Family is important to Hernandez and she comes from a big one. Her father emigrated from Mexico and met her mother in Texas. They came, with their seven kids, to Dixon, California, a farm town, and spent two years living in a migrant work camp and working in the fields.
“We lived in a tiny two-bedroom camp house, with seven kids!” she recalls. “We were a very close family — literally.”
Her father saved enough to buy his own tractor-trailer and began work as an interstate trucker, gradually moving up into the middle class.
She went to Sacramento State right after high school, then life interrupted, as she married and had her own kids. Two decades later she got a degree in political science and public administration from Cal State East Bay.
“I would never want to change my childhood, because that made me the person I am, wanting to help people and giving a voice to people,” she says.
Social issues are a priority for Hernandez, both on the Dublin City Council and at her current day job, working for Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty (who is also on the EBCE board) as a liaison to community organizations. Groups like CityServe and Tri Valley Haven are on the frontline helping with public health, homelessness, and now the COVID pandemic.
“There are a lot of resources out there, and we are making sure no one is going hungry,” she says.
She also strongly supports EBCE’s mission of clean and green energy. EBCE has signed nine contracts for new wind, solar, and energy storage projects in California.
“My goals for EBCE are to keep what we’re doing, keep expanding on solar and more new projects in years to come,” she says. “We’re helping Mother Nature every single day.”
Environmental and quality of life issues are a priority for her in Dublin too. The city is focusing on building up the downtown area near their Westside BART station, to reduce the need for cars.
“We would like to build a friendly, walkable, efficient downtown pedestrian area with great amenities,” she says. “That would include a mixture of retail, office, hotel, and residential.
“Dublin is known for its great parks that can serve as a common backyard,” she says, giving an additional meaning to the city’s slogan, “The New American Backyard.”
Moreover, Dublin’s city government is supplied by EBCE’s Renewable 100 energy portfolio, and has solar installed at 8 city facilities.
Hernandez came to the EBCE board to fill the post of Don Biddle, the Vice Mayor of Dublin and long-serving public official who passed away at age 80. Hernandez inherited a few committee assignments, including the EBCE board. She also serves on the boards of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (StopWaste), Valley Link, and Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), the Dublin schools Liaison Committee, League of California Cities, and Federal Military Communities Committee.
“I’m thrilled to serve on the EBCE Board and I’m committed,” she says. “I’m privileged to sit with a great group of elected officials that want the best for our communities. We provide more renewable energy and local investment, and have saved customers over $10 million dollars in the last two years.”
“From my own life I can say that you don’t have to do things in order, but if you have the will and the grit you can accomplish your goals.”