Hector Cendejas is running as a write-in candidate for the Manassas Park Governing Body.
He hopes to fill one of three open council seats.
We sent a questionnaire to Cendejas and all other candidates seeking a seat on the Governing Body. Cendejas’ responses are below:
PL: What are the top three major issues facing Manassas Park residents?
Cendejas: While listening to hundreds of residents in our city, I’ve noted an underlying disconnect between city hall and residents. This disconnect translates into deeper frustration with other issues.
I am committed to making sure our residents are fully engaged, because we as residents deal with these issues every day and know the best solutions. City finances and the budget are also recurrent issues of importance for residents. We need to make sure our education system is properly funded, prioritize bringing commerce into our city, and prevent backwards development-planning which further exacerbates transportation issues for Manassas Park.
Cost of living is also a challenge for many, due to high taxes and water bills. We need to prevent any tax increases and find a solution to MP’s long-standing high water costs. This will allow us to maintain long-term residents in the city and attract more businesses.
PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
Cendejas: In order to empower and engage residents in local decision-making, we need to be creative in our approach. We need to be interactive with our community by having meetings in their neighborhoods and creating Neighborhood Advisory Teams (or Commissions) to maintain constant dialogue.
We also need to use our technology more effectively to engage everyone. For example, it’d be great to have a city app sometime in the future for regular updates and hear from residents more easily. We need to be transparent and accountable to residents.
We should explore options that may include refinancing our debt and developing a business plan. This business plan could include incentives for Manassas Park residents willing to invest in the city as business owners and working with corporations in neighboring cities to explore the potential of expansion into Manassas Park.
I would host a town hall focused on commerce to bring together residents and businesses to begin developing strong ties between potential consumers and vendors. We also need to prevent residential developments that would make transportation issues worse. This negatively affects workers in our city too.
I also want to get creative in finding funds to cover smaller projects. High taxes and water bills have been two of the most recurrent issues I’ve heard affecting cost of living for residents. We need to be transparent with residents about how we are using taxes in our city.
People want to see where their money is going to be sure their taxes are being used wisely and effectively. We also need to take steps to have a fair rate for the water bill. It is important to be transparent with residents about why the rate is higher than local jurisdictions and work toward a lower rate.
PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?
Cendejas: As a council member, my job will be to be the voice of all residents in Manassas Park. A big part of this job will be listening and constantly working to find all options to address our issues. With all options on the table, I will work with residents to make the best decisions. I also believe the job description includes being transparent and being accountable to residents in the city.
PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?
Cendejas: My professional and academic training have given me the tools to be an effective council member. My masters in Social Work included preparation in Community Organization and Administration.
This preparation included training in planning and managing budgets. My time with MPCS also taught me a lot about the importance of strong collaboration with our schools. We can work with MPCS and local stakeholders to develop nontraditional and apprentice-style programs for youth, foster community engagement in local politics and become stronger.
I also have a lot of experience in promoting civic engagement. As a fellow for a member of Congress, I focused on bringing the community together to help address issues that directly affected the constituents. The member of Congress held quarterly town halls and also created a group of residents from different fields who would discuss what was important in the community. I plan to implement a similar structure with residents who will provide regular input to city officials.
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of town government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?
Cendejas: I feel citizens in our city definitely know the issues affecting us; they face them every day. I also believe they know best what we should be doing about these issues. Where I think the disconnect exists is getting to the how they can make their voices heard. It’s up to city officials to seek voices and opinions beyond election time. My goal is to increase transparency and make sure residents are at the table.
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?
Cendejas: This is the first role I am seeking in public life. I know there will be a learning curve and I will have to adapt quickly, but I am more than capable of making this happen. If I make a mistake, I can promise to learn from my mistake and always work to be better.
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
Cendejas: Your readers should vote for me because my goal is to make sure our residents are part of the decision-making in our city. We are at a crossroads right now. We can either maintain the lack of communication between residents and leaders that is apparent in the city, or we can move forward with transparency, inclusion and decision-making by all, for all.
My experiences as a local employee have given me the opportunity to more deeply understand the issues in our city and develop relationships with people, who I know will be greats assets to help us moving forward. Now, as a social worker, I am empowering those I serve by working with them to understand problems affecting them, and together find the best solutions. I will also bring these skills to our city as council member.
I’m running for: Manassas Park Governing Body
Family Reunification Social Worker
Manassas Park High School, Class of 2006
Georgetown University, Class of 2010 BA – Sociology/Social Justice Analysis
University of Southern California School of Social Work Master of Social Work Concentration: Community Organization, Planning and Administration
- Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington – Family Reunification Social Worker – Working with children and their sponsors by providing them resources in the community
- Manassas Park High School – APEX Instructor – Long-term substitute teacher – Former summer school teacher – Mentor
- Georgetown University Campus Volunteer for the Fall Intersession
- 2015 Manassas Park Middle School – Guest speaker for 3rd Quarter Honor Roll in 2012 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) -CHCI Scholarship Review Committee Member (Volunteer)
- Don Bosco Center at Georgetown South -Volunteered to work with youth from the neighborhood