Brian Fernandez and his two sisters grew up watching their mother, Charlene, work for the late U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor before becoming a leader herself in the state Legislature.
Public service, he told The Republic, “is in our blood.”
On Monday, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to appoint Fernandez, 44, to serve out the remaining term of his mother’s House seat in Legislative District 4.
Charlene Fernandez announced earlier this month she would leave office on Nov. 15 to take a job as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Arizona director for rural development. The law requires that replacements for departing lawmakers be from the same party. Both mother and son are Democrats.
Charlene Fernandez took office in 2014, rising to House minority leader in 2018. She had previously served in elected office on the Yuma Union High School District governing board.
“It was not unusual for the children to help out with her campaigns,” Brian Fernandez said. “What my mother taught all of us was public service, and giving back to the community. This opportunity came up, and I thought I’d try it.”
Much to his “shock,” he said, the board chose him over two others: Bryan Rasmussen, a former Democratic Party vice chair and music teacher; and Carol Smith, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Yuma Regional Medical Center.
The only dissenting vote came from Yuma District 5 Supervisor Lynne Pancrazi, who said at the board’s meeting on Monday that although she knew and liked Brian Fernandez, she wanted Smith because “I want to replace a woman with a woman.”
Fernandez was born and raised in Yuma. He has a degree in broadcasting and communication from Arizona State University and develops technology companies, according to his LinkedIn site.
One of them is Neuronic Games, a New York City-based company that designs museum exhibits. A biography released by Yuma County states that he founded and later sold Symfodium LLC, a company that produced software that “managed all incoming and outgoing communication for members of Congress.”
He’s volunteered for the political campaigns of Democrats including Pastor, former Gov. Janet Napolitano and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva. He also worked as an adviser for the Congressional Black Caucus on technology policy.
Fernandez told The Republic he’d like to focus on two main issues as a state representative.
“The first thing is public education… I want to make sure teachers get the raises they deserve,” he said. “Another one is infrastructure. The rural areas are very much badly in need of infrastructure improvement.”
He’ll be joining an unusually high number of fellow appointees in the 2022 Legislative session. This year so far, 10 legislators have resigned for reasons including new jobs, aspirations for higher office, and for one of them, criminal charges. An 11th legislator, Frank Pratt of Casa Grande, died in September.
All but two from Pima County have now been replaced.