Community engagement led Angel Encinas to seat

Angel Encinas is a native of Chandler and has long embraced involvement in the community. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Alberto Esparza has watched Angel Encinas grow up, meeting him for the first time when he was an 8-year-old boy. He said he’s a bit surprised Encinas got involved in local politics.

Encinas will be sworn in to serve a four-year term on the Chandler City Council on Jan. 12 and is believed to be its first openly gay member.

“Well, it was somewhat of a surprise,” Esparza said. “I didn’t think he was going that way. But when he told me he was going into politics, I said, ‘Okay, then I’ll help you campaign,’ because I truly believe there are very few people like him. There are a lot of leaders who talk about community engagement, but you’ve never seen them.

“With Angel, and because of this family background, you see him.”

Esparza and the Encinas family were involved in the United Farm Workers movement.

“He comes from a family background that is very strong with the United Farm Workers Union and with others,” Esparza said. “So because of that, it’s already innate. It’s there, it’s in his heart.”

Encinas calls Esparza a mentor.

“He worked well with my mom,” Encinas said. “He’s one of the people who inspired me at a young age.”

During the campaign, Encinas highlighted his roots in Chandler, having lived here all his life. He also said he was a proud member of both the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities and is an alumnus of San Marcos Elementary, Andersen Junior High and Chandler High schools.

His family was politically active, so being involved came naturally.

“I was a very active and involved kid,” Encinas said. “Starting from around second grade, I was already in student council. I was already in academic clubs. Even through junior high, I was always involved in student council. I was a chapter president of marketing groups, in the graphics groups. I was in FFA (Future Farmers of America). So I was pretty much involved academically in different programs.”

For fun he and his friends would head to downtown Chandler, where his mom had an office on Boston Street.

Encinas said there were comments about his sexual orientation, but for the most part he avoided any hardcore harassment or bullying.

“When I was in elementary school, during high school and stuff, there would be whispers,” Encinas said. “I’d hear comments there and stuff like that. You know, it was essentially bullying in that time. But for me, it kind of helped build a shell of defense for myself. I got really tough skin through all that.”

Encinas said he accepted his sexual orientation at a young age.

“I’ve always known since I was a small kid, all through high school, college,” he said. “I was always very active in different things and stuff and that part of my life, you know, dating, relationships, and stuff wasn’t ever there.”

Encinas said he waited until after graduating from Arizona State University with a general business degree and until he was fully independent to come out as gay.

He said the Supreme Court approving marriage equality, allowing same-sex couples to marry, had a profound impact on him. He came out of the closet after that with a social media post.

“When they approved marriage equality, that was my first post after that, because I actually saw a future, in my head,” he said. “I never thought I was going to get married, have kids and stuff because it wasn’t attainable at that time. And when that happened, I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s this whole new world that’s opening up that I can see myself a future, for me, a family, potentially kids in the future.”

Encinas says he is single now.

Finding time for a relationship might be his biggest challenge. He works primarily at an immigration consulting business with his family, Consultas Y Mas, in North Chandler, which helps migrants through the immigration process. He said his mom has been doing that for more than 30 years.

When he’s not doing that, he’s also a real estate agent, though that is mostly part-time. He says he helps some of his immigration clients when they want to buy a home.

Joining the family business was not the path he dreamed of as a child.

“I always wanted to be an engineer growing up,” Encinas said. Later, he discovered a love for design and thought marketing might be his future.

When former President Obama announced the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program in 2012, it changed his plans.

“That’s what kind of pulled me in, because I was working with people who were my age around that time, friends or people who were younger than I, or who I went to high school with, or a little bit older who I knew, and I was helping them out, in getting this work permit.”

Encinas said he thought about becoming an immigration attorney, but decided against it. He did the research and found out it would take three years and cost him $100,000.

“I thought about it and I was like, ‘if I go do that, and I come back here to this office, I’m going to be doing exactly what I’m already doing here today.’ And I didn’t want to come back to this office and have to charge our clients that premium of having that title.”

His mentor, Esparza, says he always thought Encinas would be an activist pushing for change and not necessarily one of the people sitting on the dais and making the hard choices.

So what drew him in?

“I always had public office, public service in the back of my head, it’s always been there,” Encinas said. “I’ve always kind of thought about potentially doing that. And so I was like, let me explore this a little bit more.

“I started talking to previous council members, previous mayors and things like that, see what the expectations were going to be, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is … something that I do see myself doing.’”

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