Assemblyman Rich Gordon represents the 21st Assembly District. He can be reached at Assemblymember.firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought I knew what to expect. After all, as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for three terms and as an officer of the California State Association of Counties, I had been engaged in the legislative process. I had helped draft legislation, testified, and lobbied. And I had spent more than a fair share of time in Sacramento.
So, I thought I knew what to expect when I was elected to serve the 21st District in the California State Assembly. After all, it was the experience of working in local government that propelled me to run for the State Assembly. Like many of my colleagues, I had seen amounting dysfunction in Sacramento take a serious toll on local governments and the constituents they serve. Equipped with nearly 20 years of experience in elected office and a commitment to bring better governance to California, I sought out service in the Assembly.
I was confident my accomplishments and learning experiences at the local level would better prepare me for the work in Sacramento. For example, while on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, I helped lead the implementation of outcome-based budgeting and called for departments to use performance measures to gauge programmatic success. This is a model I believe the State should explore.
While I think that my local government experience is invaluable to the work that I now do, service as an Assemblymember is fundamentally different. Most obvious is the scale and scope of the work. The budget for the County of San Mateo is 2% of the entire state budget. Also, the work of the legislature is focused on developing law and policy. At the local level there is a much greater emphasis on planning and program development.
I have experienced some personal adjustments as I have made this transition, but I am growing in my understanding and respect for the job I have been elected to do. As I reflect on this process, I have several impressions.
First, I have been pleasantly surprised by the level of commaradrie, concern, and support that exists among the members – regardless of party label. There are eighty of us representing the 36 million Californians. We worked hard to get here and have the confidence and support of those who voted for us. We are truly representative of the state.
A second impression is that the Sacramento schedule is almost humanly impossible. As a freshman, every group and advocate wants a piece of my time. I had no clue that so many affiliated groups exist – and that many of them are subsets of other groups. I go from one meeting to the next without a break having to do the mental gymnastics of switching topics at 15 minute intervals.
Third, I am impressed with the dedication of legislative staff. These people work long hours. They have great knowledge and expertise. Most importantly, they are dedicated to the institution of the legislature and the work that is done here.
Finally, I am humbled by the serious nature of the work at hand. Every time I walk onto the floor of the Assembly chambers, I am struck by the gravity of the responsibility that we have. California is in a severe crisis and major challenges lie ahead. The decisions that are reached in Sacramento will ripple across the globe. I have a clear sense that my colleagues also understand that we are at a unique moment in history for our state.
I trust that collectively we are up to the job at hand. Personally, I feel prepared for the challenge because of the knowledge and experience I gained at the local level. And most importantly, I know that the people of this great state are resilient, creative, and committed to a new and brighter future for California.