Former Colorado State representative and director of Division of Local Government within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Tony Hernandez recently spoke with La Voz about his appointment as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Housing Service (RHS) administrator.
La Voz asked Hernandez, who also held positions as director for the Colorado Business Center with the Fannie Mae Corporation and Housing Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator under the Clinton administration, the following questions:
LV: How did you feel when you heard about your appointment as Rural Housing Service administrator?
“I was so excited to be a new member of the Obama team,” Hernandez said.
He went on to discuss the importance of the position saying, “This position creates a tremendous opportunity to change people’s lives, to move people from the poor to the middle class.” He continued, “Usually people in rural America have a lower income. There are fewer jobs there. So what we are trying to do is create opportunities.”
LV: What is your ultimate goal in your position as Rural Housing Service administrator?
“[To create] a ladder of opportunities for people in rural America.”
Hernandez explained that these “opportunities” are those community assets that include, but are not limited to job opportunities, affordable housing and mental health centers “that make a community viable and sustainable.”
LV: What should our readers know about the Rural Housing Service (RHS)?
“[The Rural Housing Service creates an] opportunity for homeownership,” Hernandez said.
He spoke about two programs, which help those with a low income and those with a moderate income. There is a guarantee program and a direct program. “The purpose of both is to help people to get into homeownership.”
Hernandez spoke passionately about the cohesion that stems from homeownership saying, “It helps to create a sense of community. It’s not just a roof over your head because you are invested in your community.”
LV: Housing has been at the forefront of you career. How is the issue of housing applicable to the Latino community?
“Housing is conduit to family, neighborhood and community. The reason that’s important to the Latino community is housing is a tool to send my kids to school, to bring my family together, to celebrate cultural activities.” He continued, “I can borrow on my house to get money to send my kids to college. I can borrow money on my house to refurbish my home. If I need money for medicine, my house is a major asset that I can use to improve my health.”
“Homeownership is a key to the American dream,” he said.
LV: What is one of the most valuable lessons that you have learned in your career?
“You have to dream dreams and see visions and be willing to take a risk to make good things happen.” He shared the adage: “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”
As for those who he serves as RHS administrator, Hernandez said, “[The Rural Housing Service creates] miracles in rural Colorado as well as the rest of the country.”
LV: Last words you would like to share with our readers?
“Keep the faith. Keep trying to do things to help make the world a better place. Each of us can make a contribution,” he said.