A 36-year-old Hispanic mother of three is set to be the newest member of Pierson’s Town Council, following the passing of a longtime political figure in the small town.
Sergia Cardenas, who is now the unopposed candidate for Pierson Town Council Seat 5, is to become the first Hispanic person on the Pierson Town Council since the town’s creation.
The race was decided following the Sept. 8 death of incumbent and longtime councilman Herbert Bennett.
Cardenas said one of the reasons she ran was to show young people that if they tried, they could play a role in the political process
“I just want future generations to know that they can do it,” she said. “The younger population can engage and serve our community. Know that we can make a difference, we can help our elderly, we can help our community.”
According to population data from the 2010 census, people who considered themselves Hispanic comprised 54 percent of Pierson’s population of 1,736. Cardenas said she didn’t believe the Town Council has been representative of the population of the town.
“Most of them are men — we need a woman’s perspective, too. I’m a woman and I’m Hispanic, and I also represent the farm-working families,” she said. “There’s a lot of residents that have contacted me, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, that have identified with me [and] that have hope and have faith in me.”
Growing up, Cardenas worked with her parents, who were agricultural workers. Many people living in Pierson are agricultural workers, working in the “fern capital of the world’s” fern-growing industry.
“I know what an agricultural family goes through, their struggles and hardships,” she said. “I’ve been through it.”
Cardenas is now studying to become a paralegal after a combined eight years of experience working in legal offices. She said she has also worked in the hotel industry, in a call center, and in customer service, and wants to use her work experience and background to bring more business to Pierson.
“The first thing I would want to see is the implementation of the economic strategic plan that was developed in 2015,” Cardenas said. “We have a plan there to implement a wastewater infrastructure that would bring new businesses in and more economy to the town.”
Cardenas said that another goal of hers is to involve the Spanish-speaking community in Town Council proceedings.
“I would probably have to bring in some interpreters,” she said.
While the language barrier will have to be overcome, Cardenas said she would like to see the Spanish-speaking community more involved in the local government.
“They live there, they’re residents there,” she said.
In the hot seat
The other race in Pierson, for the position of mayor, has also already been decided. Town Council chair and longtime councilman Samuel G.S. Bennett is running in another unopposed race.
Bennett’s election as mayor comes on the heels of a special election held in May to merge the positions of Town Council chairman, Bennett’s current position, with the position of mayor. The measure passed, changing the seat of the mayor from a ceremonial position with no voting power, to the head seat on the Town Council.
Bennett said the impetus to change the mayor’s role came after realizing that Pierson was the only town in Volusia County that had a chairman-run council, as opposed to a mayor-run council.
“We put it on the ballot, and it was overwhelming support to merge the office of the chairman and the mayor into one so the mayor could vote,” he said.
There will be no change in responsibility once he is sworn in as mayor, according to Bennett — just a change in title. He added that he is looking forward to working with Cardenas.
The last separately elected mayor of Pierson, James Sowell, died in March 2019, calling into question the future of the position.
Cardenas and Bennett will be sworn into their new positions in Pierson at the Nov. 10 Town Council meeting.