By Andrew Ubben, Times Republican
Marshalltown has recently hired a new city planner — Hector Hernandez — who officially started his job on Monday after interning for the city since late January of this year.
Hernandez seized the internship opportunity through communications with Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer and now former city planner Caleb Knutson, to whom he expressed his interest in learning more about the community, keeping updated on local news and supporting city projects and events.
“I am very excited to have Hector join our team as the city planner,” said Spohnheimer. “This is an important position for our community as we focus on future development and growth. Hector has an excitement for Marshalltown and will be involved in all levels of development.”
Hernandez, 24, is as homegrown as they come. He was born and raised in Marshalltown, graduated from MHS in 2016, attended MCC for 2 years and then completed his studies at Iowa State University, where he graduated this spring with a major in Community and Regional Planning and a minor in Latino Studies. Being both a Marshalltown native and a Latino also gives Hernandez unique insight into the diverse community where over 30 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
As the city planner, Hernandez addresses multiple tasks, which include approving and signing building permits, while considering zoning laws and city ordinances which take into account high and low density population areas. He is also responsible for making sure fences are up to code and addressing other issues concerning the layout of land and appropriate locations of buildings.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest challenge for Hernandez in the first week of his new position is simply getting acclimated to the realities of the job as compared to the expectations he had while he was still in college. He also expressed his favorite aspect of his new career for only having been there a few days.
“I really enjoy just getting to meet the community members here in Marshalltown,” said Hernandez. “I wasn’t really exposed to that when I was in high school and college. Just to have that much connection to business owners and just getting to know how the community is growing and developing with projects that come along, and I have to oversee them. It’s just really enjoyable. It’s not like any previous jobs.”
Having the opportunity to offer his experiences and insight to a city he cares so much about is an honorable endeavor for Hernandez. Marshalltown’s most notable natural disasters in recent years — the 2018 tornado and 2020 derecho — are events he is all too familiar with as well since he was living here during both.
“During those times I was here in Marshalltown, just seeing those disasters and then [seeing] what Marshalltown is becoming, it’s just really enjoyable seeing that. And having to be a part of it really makes me happy,” Hernandez said.
As Hernandez continues to learn and grow through his work, he hopes that his efforts will positively affect the city so the community will grow as well.