Establishing the Network
In 1975, Severo Esquivel became the first Latino ICMA board member. At the time, there were few Hispanic city managers. ICMA had just changed the structure of the ICMA board to include two at-large Vice President positions for assistant city managers in hopes to diversify the board. Severo raised the issue of Hispanics being underrepresented on the ICMA board.
He approached Mark Keane, the ICMA Executive Director and enlisted the assistance of the incoming ICMA President, Roy Pederson and Tucson City Manager, Joel Valdez for funding from ICMA to start a Hispanic Emphasis Program. In 1978, they received funding and Ruben Mendoza was hired by ICMA to administer the program.
The story is LGHN was created in the back of a cab during the 1977 ICMA conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The group would meet whenever they could, even if it was one-on-one when one was visiting the city of another. Ruben became the key contact, contacting every Hispanic who joined ICMA and inviting them to join LGHN.
Joel Valdez, the only Hispanic city manager of a city with a population larger than 100,000, along with other Hispanic managers across the country, initiated the endeavor that resulted in what has become LGHN. At the time (late 1970’s-early 1980’s) there was a TV miniseries called Shōgun, which was based on the adventures of an English navigator, William Adams, who became the shōgun, a high rank in service, in early 17th century Japan. In the show, the shōgun has samurai, therefore these seven managers were given the nickname of The Seven Samurai.
After the program was created, the group received federal funding through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department for the Hispanic Field Service Program, which provided fellowship at sixteen U.S. universities for Hispanics interested in pursuing local government service to receive a master’s in public administration. As a result, more than 200 students received these fellowships, many of whom are still leaders in local government.
The grant also included funding for regional conferences in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Seven Samurai traveled to these regional conferences as the core team of the organization. The regional conferences culminated in a national conference in San Antonio in 1981. All of the student attendees attended for free as a result of the grant funding. As a result of this group’s efforts, The Seven Samurai were invited to the White House and met with First Lady Rosalyn Carter. The funding for the program did not continue after President Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
The International Hispanic Network was officially named in 1989.
The purpose of this association is to encourage professional excellence among Hispanic/Latino local government administrators and those local government officials working in communities with significant Hispanic/Latino populations. Additionally, the mission is to improve the management of local government, to provide unique resources to Hispanic/Latino local government executives and public managers, and to advance the goals of professional, effective and ethical local government administration.
The organization created its own 501(c)3 in 2003. 2004 marked the formal debut of the International Hispanic Network (IHN) as an independently incorporated non-profit organization, dedicated to providing specialized services and support to Hispanic/Latino local government professionals, and through them to the broader Hispanic/Latino community. The Network operates as a forum for individuals who are interested in the programs and issues related to the Latino population and as a consortium of local governments that serve the Hispanic/Latino population.
Transition – MissionSquare Retirement Becomes Founding Corporate Sponsor
In September 2003 at the ICMA Annual Conference in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, the IHN and ICMA entered into a new three-year affiliation agreement. This agreement, signed by ICMA Executive Director Bob O’Neill and past Network president Noelia Chapa, former city manager of Soledad, California, marked a new chapter in the evolution of the Hispanic Network, which has been a formal ICMA affiliate since 1991. Early in 2004, ICMA was instrumental in facilitating a three-year funding commitment from the ICMA Retirement Corporation (ICMA-RC), now MissionSquare Retirement, to support IHN activities. MissionSquare Retirement continues to serve as the founding corporate sponsor of LGHN. In 2017, the Network rebranded as the Local Government Hispanic Network to better reflect its mission.
LGHN has conducted highly successful professional development conferences in San Antonio, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Oxnard, California; Taos, New Mexico; Laredo, Texas; Burlingame, California; Miami Beach, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Aurora, Adams County, Colorado. Biennial conferences are held in even number years.