felipe hernandez justin commings santa cruz county board of supervisors
Felipe Hernandez (left) and Justin Cummings share words after being sworn in to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in 2022. File photo by Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors reached a milestone Thursday when the first African American person in its 172-year history was sworn in to the District 3 seat before a large audience that packed the chambers.

During the same ceremony, Felipe Hernandez became the second Latino to serve on the Board.

Justin Cummings said his ascension to the position is noteworthy for several reasons.

“This is significant, because African Americans have made significant contributions to the country and to the community, yet we continue to struggle to overcome poverty and oppression, and to have a voice in the decision-making process,” he said after he was sworn in by Gary Patton, who held the District 3 seat from 1975-1995.

Cummings said his new position is also significant because people in the U.S. are still treated differently based on the color of their skin.

“But when we include the voices and perspectives of oppressed people in the decision-making process, and create more inclusive policies that help alleviate oppression, everyone benefits,” he said.

Cummings said he plans to work on affordable housing issues, and on helping the community continue to recover from the CZU fires. He also wants to improve the infrastructure along the North Coast, combat climate change and increase food security.

In addition he hopes to reduce homelessness, expand mental health programs and support the rail-trail project.

Hernandez, who was sworn in by Congressman Jimmy Panetta, acknowledged his mother, who he said was instrumental during his campaign.

But she was also a former cannery worker who was part of the strikes during the 1980s, and Hernandez recalled looking up to his mother as a leader and a role model who shaped his own political aspirations.

That was also when he saw that agriculture workers and cannery workers have been traditionally underrepresented, as has South County as a whole.

Hernandez says he plans to focus on affordable housing, and farmworker housing, as well as a “viable, equitable transportation system.”

He also plans to support Watsonville Community Hospital as it continues to grow under local ownership and leadership of the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust.

“Those are the things I want to make sure that we address,” he said. “I want to assure that I will work hard for the county, but I really want to make sure that the County works for South County.”

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


  1. this is one of the huge changes that our election brought. people of color are now on the county board of supervisors. this will bring changes in policy and tone for years to come.
    those of you who see our state as “commiefornia” are sincerely invited to leave.

  2. A “viable, equitable transportation system.”
    Does that mean he’ll fight for lower gas prices so the aveage person can afford to get to work and buy food instead of paying the nations highest gas prices?
    Or do I get a free Tesla because my grandmother was a “person of color” ???


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