Carl Hernandez

OREM — The Hernandez family sits quietly in the living room, listening to their dad, Carl, talk about his goals for the city of Orem.

Hernandez, who will be sworn in Monday as the newest elected City Council member, waxes poetic about the importance of supporting and encouraging the children in the community — the future leaders.

But to 5-year-old Clarissa, who's shyly poking the Christmas tree ornaments, the best thing about her dad is that he plays hide-and-go seek with her. And he takes them to China Bowl, a restaurant on State Street in Orem, when they get good grades in school.

The oldest Hernandez, 16-year-old Chrisanne, loves that her dad thinks he can break dance.

"Man, if it was a good song, I'd break dance right now," 15-year-old Coralee says, giggling, as she imitates her father.

The whole family laughs, and Carl just shakes his head.

It was definitely not break-dancing skills that got him elected to the City Council.

Hernandez believes it was a combination of factors — educational and professional experiences as well as his unique perspective as a minority candidate — that helped him win.

In fact, according to records from Orem city, Hernandez and fellow candidate Tom Sitake, who is Tongan, were the first minority candidates to ever run in the city.

"I do believe that was one of the reasons," Hernandez said of his Hispanic background. "People have mentioned it would be valuable to have someone like me on the City Council with the changing demographics, but it wasn't the reason they elected me. I think people look first to my qualifications, my educational experiences."

Those experiences began in California, where Hernandez and his wife, Christy, moved after getting married. A Brigham Young University graduate, Hernandez worked as a deputy city attorney in Visalia for about three years, then as a full city attorney in Bakersfield for seven years before coming back to Utah — his wife's home state — to become an assistant dean at BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Christy Hernandez said her husband had been approached several times about running for public office, but it never seemed to be the right time. Until recently.

"All of a sudden (I realized), yeah, you do have the background for the City (Council)," she said. "And, yeah, you could really do a lot with your background with the law."

So when Hernandez decided to run, Christy Hernandez and the kids got into the political spirit. Even little Clarissa wanted to knock on doors.

"Vote for my daddy, don't forget," Christy Hernandez said, quoting her young daughter's door routine.

The children have yet to go to a City Council meeting, though. They will, they say, if it's exciting.

"I think it will be good to have the children see how the government works on that level," Christy Hernandez said. "We affect everything; we're not just in a shell. It's important to see that."

The kids are admittedly more excited to get VIP passes to Orem's Summerfest and other small perks of being the children of an elected official.

Hernandez said he is eager to get to know the City Council members as well as the Orem community, in order to balance his sense of what needs to be done versus the needs others see.

"He's a really good listener," Christy Hernandez said. "And good at getting people to work together. He's level-headed so (people) feel good about the outcome, no matter what side they come in on."

One highly divisive issue Hernandez is concerned about is education.

"I think they want me to be involved in educational issues," Hernandez said, looking at his two teenage daughters. "It's a huge issue for me."

Last year, Orem residents were heatedly split over a potential division of the Alpine School District, which prompted numerous meetings as well as lengthy City Council discussions with the public.

The City Council ultimately decided not to put the issue on the ballot then, but wanted to gather more information so voters would fully understand the effects of such a split. It's likely the issue will be raised again.

Hernandez, while not going into specifics about a potential new school district, said he believes city government ought to be involved in what's happening with the education system.

"The children and their future are so important to me," he said, then quoted an adage, "'A politician looks to the next election. A statesman looks to the next generation.' I wanted to have some impact on the future of this community."