Luis Gaitan was born to Nicaraguan parents that immigrated from Nicaragua. His parents eventually ended up following other family members to Camden. His parents, Esperanza and Carlos worked in the blueberry fields at first. Then, Esperanza went on to work at a poultry plant in Philadelphia while Carlos went to work in concrete construction.
Luis grew up as a neighborhood kid hanging out on the streets with vigilant parents keeping an eye on all the kids. Riding bikes around the neighborhood, going to the corner store, opening fire hydrants, playing football. Luis attended Dudley School from K-4th where he also learned English since Spanish was his first language. Throughout this point of his life, his family was dealing with deportation orders (3 attempts) on Esperanza, and alcohol addiction from Carlos (eventually succumbed to esophageal cancer 2017). These issues did not derail his family and they were able to work through these issues as best as they can. His brother and sister typically acted as second parents when necessary throughout the stressful times.
Eventually, his parents decided to enroll Luis in catholic school at St Anthony (prior to partnership merge) where he would attend 5th to 8th grade. Luis continued to excel at CCHS as an athlete and student but was on the fence on where to go after. Luis ultimately decided on Villanova University. He majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Luis was a student, athlete and volunteer at Villanova. Following his undergraduate studies, Luis began his graduate work at Rowan University. During his time at Rowan University, Luis joined the Navy reserve as a Civil Engineering officer.
Upon completing his masters degree, Luis began his professional career as a civil service employee for the NJ Department of Transportation where he oversaw construction projects for 2 years. Luis continued to be a committed member of the Naval reserve during his NJDOT career up until he was set to deploy to Afghanistan with the 555th Engineering Brigade in 2013. Luis was deployed for 8 months and served in the Kandahar region as the Construction Liaison Officer of Region South in charge of construction operations. ($20 Million) Overseeing construction personnel from Air Force, Navy and Army in support of force and infrastructure reduction effort.
Upon his return from his deployment, Luis joined HNTB corporation, a transportation engineering firm. Luis has been working as a Civil Engineer and a Licensed Civil Engineer for HNTB for 5 years. During his time at HNTB, Luis has also founded non-profit “I Run This City”, a mentoring program that uses long distance running as a tool for mentoring Camden City youth. The program has grown in 3 years from 1 school (St Anthony) and students to 5 schools and over 40 students. Luis has been a passionate runner for most of his adult life and believes that youth activity and health is a key part to developing the next generation of leaders in Camden.
Luis is the current president of the Concerned Citizens of North Camden, an organization that has existed for over 30 years and in its history organized the community to opposed major projects such as the waterfront prison and assisted South Camden in opposing the burn plant. Luis is honored to take the lead of this historic organization and ensure that the voice of the community is heard and represented.
Luis has always known he has wanted to serve those around him. After serving his country, he knew there was still plenty of work to do in Camden. That’s why he wishes to serve as one of its leaders representing the next generation in Camden, New Jersey.