To win her city council race, this 20-year-old did what too many politicians ignore

Woman inspired to run for Kingsburg City Council begins first her term at age 20

Jewel Hurtado, a Kingsburg native, was inspired by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in campaigning to make a difference in her city and provide a voice for the youth.
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Jewel Hurtado, a Kingsburg native, was inspired by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in campaigning to make a difference in her city and provide a voice for the youth.

Jewel Hurtado’s election to the Kingsburg City Council is so very American that one cannot help but feel good — and wish that the big-name politicians now in office in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento could run a campaign like she did.

In case you missed it, Hurtado was elected last November in a nail-biter of a contest. She beat incumbent Staci Smith by just eight votes.

There’s more to spice up this story: Hurtado ran as a 20-year-old and new mother. When The Bee called to learn more about her, 10-month-old son Anthony Gonzales III babbled in the background throughout the interview.

Kingsburg does not keep records on the age of its council officeholders, so there is no way to know if Hurtado is the youngest person ever elected there. County elections officials also could not say if she was the youngest ever elected to an office in Fresno County.

But she interviews like a seasoned pro, and said a time-tested strategy led to her ultimate success.

Jewel Hurtado stands on Draper Street in Kingsburg on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. The 20 year old began her term on the Kingsburg City Council in December. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

“Countless days of knocking on doors paid off. Talking to voters face to face was the No. 1 factor to winning the race. They could see who you are and you could see who you would be serving. It was joy all the way around.”

That’s a lesson ignored or forgotten by the politicians who cynically refuse to hold town halls or otherwise meet with constituents for fear of making a misstep.

She thinks voters responded to her age because she is an instant role model to the children of the town of 12,000: Hurtado is living proof that one can grow up to become a leader in one’s hometown because that is exactly what she did.

Hurtado lives in District 1, on Kingsburg’s west side, in the home she shares with her grandmother and fiance. Across the street is the skate park under development, something she championed as a member of the city’s community services commission.

She has a strong handle on Kingburg’s vision for itself. “I take very seriously we want Kingsburg to remain small but still grow,” she said.

She shows more political smarts when asked if her election was part of the rise of Hispanic candidates in November. “I tried to keep myself out of that conversation as much as possible,” she said. “The was a lot of blue wave (Democrat) all over the Valley, and I would identify with that on a personal level. But the City Council is nonpartisan.”

In District 1 Hurtado represents about 2,400 people. The district is equally split between white and Hispanic residents, according to the most recent census data.

Asked about aspiring to higher office someday, Hurtado’s political skills once again rise up. “We will just have to wait and see. I’m only 20. I will be 24 when my term ends. Higher office is definitely not out of the picture. I am just not sure what that is. I might run for council again.”

Until then, good luck, council member Hurtado, and keep showing the world how to do politics the way America’s founders intended.