Q: What did you do before taking the Legislative Director position at CSDA?
A: Before CSDA, I had the pleasure of working as a staff member in both houses of the Legislature. It was a privilege to serve in that role and an invaluable opportunity to learn the legislative and political process. I was fortunate to work for exceptional legislators and benefit from the guidance and wisdom of more experienced colleagues.
I’ve worked for a special district as well, at Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, which serves my hometown, Hemet. It was actually that experience that motivated me to apply for the position at CSDA.
Speaking of that, why did you want to work in local government, and specifically for special districts?
I believe in the mission of local governments, and special districts in particular. Special districts provide the most basic services that government is created to provide. In fact, special districts are initiated by citizens who want a specific new or improved service.
Parks, fire, water, these are services suited for local government, and it’s important that they be carried out with local input to meet the needs of the community. What is great about many of our districts is that ratepayers really get to see the direct economic value of their tax dollars; that’s something that’s virtually impossible with your federal income taxes.
It is popular to support “local control.” But, it seems that public policy has gradually shifted away from it. At the end of the day, I still believe that community involvement and local control are amongst the key ingredients that have made, and will continue to make, our nation uniquely successful.
So, what role does the California Special Districts Association play in all of this?
CSDA provides legislative advocacy, education and member services for all special districts. Through CSDA, special districts throughout the state can benefit from shared expertise and knowledge. One challenge of local government is size and resources, but CSDA connects all of its members to overcome many of those obstacles. Moreover, we give them a voice, which is largely my role.
Inter-governmental communication is critical to providing residents with the level of services they want. That is one thing that I learned while studying for my MPA. Our association gives special districts, small and large, a voice in Sacramento, and we bridge a connection from Sacramento to the districts as well.
You mentioned your MPA, what’s your academic background?
Well, it’s probably important that I give recognition to the two best California institutions of higher education. I received a Bachelor or Arts in Political Science and Speech Communication from Pepperdine University, and later earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California.
I love my alma maters, and it’s great because I get to root for the Waves during basketball season (which has been difficult as of late) and the Trojans during football season (since Pepperdine hasn’t had a football team since we took the Small College Football Championship in 1946).
I’m actually hoping to start a Pepperdine Alumni Chapter in Sacramento, so I’d love to hear from any alumni reading this in Sacramento.
As a final question, what are your goals in your new position?
CSDA is an aggressive association with some big goals, which is exciting. I’m really looking forward to the journey ahead, and I’m fortunate to be working with a great staff including our legislative advocate, Iris Herrera, and our contract lobbyist, Ralph Heim. Together, we’ve actually already initiated some new ideas.
We’ve developed a “Grassroots Action Center” at our website, www.csda.net, which equips districts with tools necessary for joining together in effective grassroots advocacy. We’re also putting the finishing touches on what we’re calling our, “Legislative Access Services” webpage. This is a one-stop shop for CSDA members to access the State Capitol and the many services that our legislative department provides.
My goal is to give smaller districts the opportunity to participate in the process, and to supplement the efforts of larger districts to make them more effective. I think that our new website features will go a long way in serving those purposes; but we’ve got a full plate of other ideas and efforts underway… maybe I can share more about those and some of our legislative priorities in a future interview!