DENVER (KDVR) — North Denver will have a new state representative come next session.

Tim Hernández was selected by a vacancy committee this weekend to fill the seat left empty by Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, now a newly minted Denver City Council member.

Hernández, 26, will be the first lawmaker from Generation Z to serve the state of Colorado. He said he plans to bring his advocacy for communities of color to the Capitol with him as the representative for House District 4.

“I’m very thankful that the voters of HD4 decided that a teacher, a Chicano, a Northsider should represent this place, and now we’re going to go do it,” Hernández said.

The community activist and teacher is heading to the state Capitol following Gonzales-Gutierrez’s win as the city council’s at-large member.

“She’s been a mentor of mine for a long time, so I’m very thankful for her work. Part of her work is what inspires somebody like me — a poor, brown kid from the neighborhood — to see myself in the Capitol building,” Hernández said of the city councilwoman.

North High School teacher Tim Hernández was put on leave for joining a student walkout protesting the district’s decision not to bring him on as a teacher next school year. (Credit: Vince Chandler)

Education, housing and gun violence

Known for advocating for more cultural recognition and equity in education, Hernández made headlines last year after Denver Public Schools opted not to renew his contract following his calls for change. Hernández said he plans to work at the Capitol on solutions for education along with housing and gun violence, using his lived experience as motivation.

“It’s part of organizing, it’s part of youth movements to convince other generations to collaborate for something they might not see for themselves yet because of the society that we live in, right? But I do think what’s really integral and what’s really important is sitting down and having one-on-one conversations, connecting with folks and working to end oppressive policies in the Capitol. It’s only going to be done from people who are oppressed,” Hernández said.

One group that may take some convincing to work with Hernández is the House Republicans.

“In appointing Tim Hernández for HD4, Colorado Democrats have doubled down on the fringe left agenda at the expense of working-class families in Colorado who simply want safe communities and lower prices at the grocery store. Hernández is out of touch with Coloradans,” Colorado House Republicans said in a statement.

Hernández said he welcomes criticism of how he’s advocated for more inclusive policies but he is encouraging those who don’t agree with him to listen to the voices of young people. Hernández still has to be sworn in to finish Gonzales-Gutierrez’s term next year. He said he plans to run for the seat again in 2024 after this initial term.

Gonzales-Gutierrez said in a statement: “Upon resigning from my seat on August 4th, I made the commitment to provide guidance and support to my successor. Now that Representative-Elect Tim Hernández has been elected by the vacancy committee to represent House District 4, I’m looking forward to our continued collaboration serving the people of Denver. I appreciated the participation, time, and efforts of the three exceptional Latino candidates. I’m hopeful that Representative-Elect Hernández will continue to serve the residents of North and West Denver both inside and outside of the Capitol.”