California Special District asked Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry to describe her local government roots, what she hopes to accomplish at the Capitol, and her advice for special district boards and leadership throughout the state.
What is your background in local government?
From a young age, I was interested in small businesses, public policy and public service. I grew up around agriculture – cutting apricots in the packing shed and helping my dad in the walnut orchards – and today I am a co-owner of my family’s walnut farm. That experience with agriculture was a big part of the reason why I launched a consulting firm specializing in water, public policy and community outreach.
I also have volunteered in numerous community organizations, including the Yolo Housing Commission, the Yolo County Water Resource Association, and served in various capacities on the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and on the League of California Cities.
Additionally, I was the Director of Public Outreach for the Freeport Regional Water Authority, a Joint Powers Agreement between the Sacramento County Water Agency and the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Most recently I served on the Winters City Council and had the privilege of being the first female Mayor. I am honored to serve in the California State Assembly and take the responsibility of serving my constituents and community seriously, just as I did when I served as Mayor.
I’ve been on both sides – working for a local agency and serving as an elected official, so I will draw on those experiences for my role as Chair of the Local Government Committee.
Having been the first woman elected Mayor in Winters, California – what challenges have you faced in the political landscape because of gender?
The issues I’ve faced as a woman have made me work that much harder to achieve my goals. I think it’s important for the kids in our communities to see the diversity in action, especially with their elected officials. What do young girls think when all they see is elected officials who are men? I hope I’m able to show the next generation and future generations that women can have great careers in public policy and public service, as wel
l as run small businesses, and that the State Legislature is not a “Man’s World.”
You are a co-owner of your family’s walnut farm here in California. Growing up on a working farm, what values and work ethic have you taken with you throughout your political career?
I’m an early riser – I like to get up, get moving, and get things done. I’m the first one in the office because I like the quiet time to think about the day ahead. I’m sure that’s an outgrowth of growing up on a family farm.
With over 150 special districts in your jurisdiction, how do these local agencies impact your residents?
Special districts serve an important role in my district. They fill the niche that the cities and counties cannot, or choose not, to fill. They allow community members to have a voice in the type of services, and delivery of services that best meets their needs. Special districts are the true “local” governments.
Would you say the role special districts play in Assembly District 4 is a significant part of meeting your constituents’ needs?
I think special districts can fill a void that is sometimes left by city and county government, especially in rural communities. They can give the community a voice and an option when there may not be one otherwise.
What suggestions do you have for special districts as they attempt to encourage more minorities and women to run for elected boards?
I think the current political climate is a perfect opportunity for more women and minorities to get involved in public service and run for office. People are passionate about the direction of their communities, the state, and their county. I hope that CSDA, as part of its role in educating its members and providing professional development opportunities, can tap into this movement and provide additional support and training to women and minorities who are serving as elected officials for the first time.
As a new legislator, what are you most looking forward to accomplishing during your first term of service?
My goal is to continue to serve my constituents well and to maintain the local perspective that I had when I served in local government, while considering and balancing that with statewide needs.
I also hope to work in a collaborative fashion with my colleagues – both Democrat and Republican – to address some of the more pressing issues like affordable housing and infrastructure deficiencies.
We have a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to dive in.
Congratulations on recently being appointed Chair of the Assembly Local Government Committee.
What would you like to see come out of this committee for the 2017-18 legislative session?
I am honored to serve as Chair of the Local Government Committee, especially as a ‘freshman’ legislator. It’s a big committee, and is involved in a lot of important conversations that impact the future of our communities and our state.
In that capacity, I’m hoping to take on several goals this session – first, an oversight role. The Legislature passes and the Governor signs a lot of bills each year. It’s important to take a pause and check in on implementation of bills, statewide ballot initiatives, local mandated programs, and to think critically about these new programs and requirements before we pass new ones. I also think oversight over long-standing programs or agencies is important because situations change. Technology changes. Community needs and wants change. Government needs to be responsive to these changes and statutes need to be updated.
Second, I’d like to see the Committee craft the best public policy possible. I hope that we can have thoughtful dialogues during our Committee hearings and listen to the experiences and suggestions of stakeholders.
If the Committee can achieve both of these goals, and I can serve my district well, I’ll count that as a success.