For Harid Puentes, the decision to run for City Council is one that has been several years in the making. It started with an experience he had working with the City (seeing the good and the bad) and it crystallized with the upcoming birth of a daughter. The UTC Democrat said he’s running for the District 1 seat in 2020, to bring a humanistic approach to City Hall, while embracing San Diego’s innovation sector.
“I’ve always had this desire to help people,” he told La Jolla Light. “It’s always been in my nature.”
Born in New York and raised in Texas, Puentes said he studied politics and government at George Mason University, and at the London School of Economics. Upon arriving in San Diego, he joined the executive team at CONNECT, a business start-up acceleration program.
“The solutions we have to the big challenges we face is going to be in entrepreneurs,” explained Puentes, who goes by “H.”
“We at CONNECT started a program to build the region’s first business-and-diversity-focused business accelerator through a public-private partnership with the City and other business and community organizations, to create jobs in San Diego.”
In that process, Puentes became familiar with City operations, both its assets and defects. “I saw firsthand, the incredible role the City has if it uses its ability with respect to land use, budgeting and convening organizations that you never thought would work together,” he said. “On the other hand, I saw some of the struggles and the distance between how the City works and where the communities are.”
Further, Puentes observed the “reactionary position” the City seems to be in, rather than being poised for the innovation that is fast approaching.
“To truly embrace innovation means to be much more heavily involved with our local government, which we see now through the integration of scooters, drones, genomics, autonomous vehicles,” he said. “We are in a reactionary position, but anyone in the innovation sector should have seen the motorized scooters coming a mile away. We need leaders who understand innovation is going to be crucial for where we are going, not just as a government, but as a society.”
He said his priority, if elected to the City Council, is to drive innovation “not just as a synonym for technology, but as an approach,” along with addressing the climate crisis and doing more to protect the environment, while tapping into San Diego’s human capital.
“In this (Council) district, we have executives, innovators, military, healthcare experts and an incredible university that pumps out more engineers than any other university in the country,” Puentes said. “We have to tap into that, as well as our local planning groups, to really get the full use of our available human capital.”
He added that he’s craving a human element in his politicians, too. “People want human beings who engage with each other, their communities and constituents in a meaningful way,” Puentes said.
To maintain his humanity, he paints.
“The power of art and self-reflection to me, is part of that investing in human capital,” he explained. “Art has a way of making you reflect as an individual. As leaders, we are human. My art is a way for me to keep myself in check. Whatever your ‘art’ is, I think it’s important for people to find that art so they can find balance.” Right now, he said, he is mostly painting male figures, like cowboys and kings, to explore a broader message of masculinity.
But all this would probably not have ended in a City Council run without the upcoming arrival of his first child.
“That made this personal for me,” he said. “This is the City my daughter is going to grow up in — that everyone’s sons and daughters grow up in. I want to make sure it is a City that is prepared for the long term. That is an important piece of the job to me.”
Want to know more? Visit hpuentes.com
— Election season has begun. In less than one year, residents of District 1 will have the opportunity to vote in the San Diego City Council primary election (March 3, 2020). District 1 includes La Jolla, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines and University City. All of the candidates who have filed so far have been interviewed by La Jolla Light and their profiles can be read at lajollalight.com