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The emergency management official and planning commissioner said he wants to 'bring people together.'

Luis HernandezEmergency management planning is Luis Hernandez's profession.

The Cornelius resident has worked for the Hillsboro School District as an emergency management grant administrator, for Multnomah County in Oregon's most populous county's emergency management office, and — since last year — as an emergency management specialist for Portland General Electric.

"It's a good vantage point to look at the broad community," Hernandez said. "One of the terms that we use a lot in emergency management is called 'whole community.' And what we mean by that is that there's not one entity, one organization, that has all the answers, or all the solutions, or all the capabilities. So it really involves private sector, public sector, non-governmental, individual citizens all working in sync."

He added, "That kind of experience, I think, is helpful when you're trying to unify and bring people together."

Armed with that experience, Hernandez is running for a seat on the Cornelius City Council this fall.

While Hernandez has been working in emergency management since 2008, that's not his only qualification. Hernandez serves on the city's planning commission, a common stepping stone to elected office in many cities and counties. He previously sat on the Washington County Public Safety Coordinating Council as a voting member.

A Cornelius resident since 2013, Hernandez pointed out some of the ways in which the city functions as a satellite of neighboring Hillsboro and Forest Grove — including the fact that it is divided between those cities' public school districts, with school campuses of both within city limits.

"You kind of have a split community," he said. "You've got the Hillsboro side, and you've got the Forest Grove side, and I think that kind of divides the community up a little bit. … We probably can't change that, right, but are there things that we can do to unify the community more? We've just got to come up with innovative approaches — so things like parks and open areas where we can just kind of get together."

Hernandez is excited about Cornelius Place, the three-story building under construction at North Adair Street and 14th Avenue that will house an expanded public library as well as apartment housing for seniors.

Cornelius' defining feature is Highway 8 and the way it bisects Cornelius into north and south. Much of the highway corridor is considered "blighted" by city officials, who plan to use urban renewal and other mechanisms to spur economic development and give the area a facelift. At the same time, planners have to be mindful of the traffic that comes through Cornelius every day, traveling in between Forest Grove and Hillsboro.

"Road safety — that's always an issue," Hernandez said. "And it's tough, because you're … kind of in the middle of Hillsboro and Forest Grove, and people just kind of want to move through. And sometimes that doesn't sit well with trying to make downtown Cornelius a walkable and inviting place."

Despite the issues facing Cornelius, Hernandez said he sees opportunities as well.

"There's a lot of energy in our neck of the woods, and I think we can really harness that energy to improve our lives — of folks that are already living here, and the folks that are going to be coming," Hernandez said.

There are two at-large seats on the Cornelius City Council up for election this year. Councilors Harley Crowder and Jose Orozco were elected in 2014 as the only two candidates in the running.

Mayor Jef Dalin has also filed for re-election.

The filing deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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