By Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

I have served as a Kern County Supervisor for six years now, but I think I’ve been in “public service” since I ran for my sixth-grade class presidency. It was a much closer race than I thought it was going to be, and I took away two important lessons from that experience. First, in politics, you can’t take anything for granted. Second, I will absolutely listen to you with respect and an open mind and I will expect the same courtesy from you.

The core of who I am as a public servant is rooted in my experience as the child of Christian ministers who also had a dozen foster children living with us at various times. My parents were devoted to their community, their family and their ideals—and one way they chose to express that devotion was by being foster parents. That experience was the lens that focused my adult life on public service.

I cut my political teeth in traditionally conservative Kern County as a Latina Democrat, who married a much more conservative husband. I have not had the luxury of making a “Democratic” vote and coming home to a homogenous family where my public policy decisions are rubber-stamped by a like-minded spouse. Not even close. And this reality has been good for me and good for Kern County. I have had to rethink my understanding of many public policy decisions and how they are evaluated by those who do not think exactly as I do.

I have been inspired to learn to communicate more openly with those who do not share my party registration or life experiences. I have had to re-wire the way I listen and understand what is being said to me by those on the other side of the political aisle. I have also learned that they often have incredible insights that add immensely to the discourse surrounding the public policy decisions I have voted on over the last six years. My pledge to you is to apply the best of my experience, education and dedication to the work CSAC does on our behalf.

I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship with Governor Brown in 2018. Over the past few years, I have been privileged to join my fellow CSAC Officers in meeting with the Governor to discuss CSAC’s priorities for the year. He listens to us as representatives of this association, and as individual elected officials with our own take on the issues and how to deal with them. In 2018 the impacts to California from the recent federal tax bill will begin to unfold. The State budget will hold both promise and peril for local government. And from In-Home Supportive Services to cannabis regulation, funding for transportation infrastructure and the issues surrounding fire response and recovery, California counties and our statewide association will have plenty of work to do.

I also pledge to conduct that work with an open mind and respect for differing points of view. We will debate and argue the issues with passion. I would expect nothing less from the 296 elected supervisors who represent California’s 58 beautiful and diverse counties. But another lesson I learned over the past several years as a CSAC Officer is that while we may be 58 very different counties when our 58 voices are in harmony on an important issue, we are unstoppable.

I am honored, humbled and privileged to serve as CSAC President this year. I have every faith and confidence in CSAC’s leadership and staff and their ability to advance our legislative priorities. I look forward to working with them and with you to make 2018 another great year for California counties.

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Originally posted at the California State Association of Counties.