Matt Hernandez ’16 serves next generation of Los Angelenos with LAFD

April 3, 2024

Matt Hernandez ’16 is driven by his love of Los Angeles.

Matt Hernandez ’16 speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles. Hernandez studied sociology at Whittier College and now works as the government affairs director for the Los Angeles City Fire Department. | Courtesy Matt HernandezBorn and raised in the City of Angels, the first-generation Mexican-American mainly grew up in the East Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. Working as the government affairs director for the Los Angeles City Fire Department allows him to see his home bloom.

Being closer to home and the small class sizes drew him to Whittier, so he transferred from the University of Delaware. Looking back, Hernandez said that was the best decision he had ever made.

“Whittier College offered a curriculum that I thought was very unique,” he said.

Hernandez wanted to work in government since high school, and the sociology major became interested in criminology while studying in Delaware. At Whittier, influential and engaging professors who shepherded him on his path included Julie Collins-Dogrul, Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez, and Les Howard.

“Their classes really challenged me and helped me build my confidence,” Hernandez said. “Howard’s teaching methods and engagement was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed learning sociology at Whittier.”

Outside of studies, Hernandez was a frequent visitor to the Donald E. Graham Athletic Center as a spectator of basketball and volleyball games, as well as training for lacrosse. The Poet athlete still plays lacrosse recreationally as a captain of Mexico’s men’s national lacrosse team. He is also a head coach for the San Fernando Valley Youth lacrosse program.

Matt Hernandez ’16 is a captain for Mexico’s men’s national lacrosse team. While at Whittier, Hernandez was part of the men’s lacrosse team that played in the NCAA tournament. | Courtesy Matt HernandezThe passion for helping others is why Hernandez knew he wanted to work at the City of Los Angeles after college. He dreams of making a difference in the city, shaping it into a better place for the next generation. Hernandez began his career interning for Miguel Santana ’91 at the City Administrator Office. In 2017, he was hired as public safety deputy for Los Angeles City Council District 12 and now — as of September — he is the government affairs director for the Los Angeles City Fire Department.

No two days are the same, but Hernandez’s responsibility is to monitor and provide input on any legislation that the council members and the mayor write that will affect the fire department. 

“Everything I’ve learned is being applied on a daily basis,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez has been invited back to Whittier to speak about his career — with the most recent visit being in March — and one of his key points of advice is for students to take advantage of Whittier’s career-oriented events to help secure a job after graduation.

“Even if you’re not interested in the specific field highlighted at the event, it could give you ideas on what to do or where to go,” he said.

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