After 20 years of helping other people run for office, my own effort comes with the ease of familiar territory and the wisdom gained from watching some of our best local leaders in action, some of whom I had the great privilege to work for.
From Assemblymember Pedro Nava, I learned the power of tenacity. When working on a tough project, that steely focus was an asset. He once had us send out 20 press releases on the same topic, keeping his point in front of the media. He delighted newspaper reporters with his sense of humor. Highly quotable, Pedro was successful in getting his message across.
He was also kind. I will never forget the day I walked into my doctor’s office, worried about the results of a medical test. Five minutes before my appointment, my boss called me to give me reassurance. From Pedro Nava, I learned that kindness and compassion is the best way to inspire staff to work hard on your behalf.
Senator Fran Pavley is known around the world for her groundbreaking legislation, but most people do not realize that this once eighth-grade government teacher also has a sly sense of humor. I was assigned to follow MSNBC reporter Tony Dukoupil around as he worked on a feature story on my boss. Watching a town hall, he looked at me quizzically as Fran set the audience off in peals of laughter. “Why, she’s funny!” he said to me in amazement. “Yep,” I answered.
From Fran and Pedro I learned that humor can be an effective way to break the ice and get people to relax and work together.
But what I most admired about Fran was her humility, a quality not often found in a politician. Invited to the White House, two international climate summits, and countless symposiums and gatherings in her honor, she never seemed eager to take credit for her accomplishments even though awards filled every wall in her office. Getting things done no matter who shone brightest seemed to be her goal.
The first mayor of Agoura Hills, she never lost an election, either. Under that effortlessly unassuming exterior is also a competitor. And one of the reasons behind her success was a willingness to work across the aisle and take amendments to get her bills passed. From Fran I learned compromise.
Senator Henry Stern is just starting his career. But early on when we were staffers together I recognized a charisma and a gift for eloquent speaking that I will never have, but which I wholly admire. Just 35, Henry will go on to even bigger things in his life.
From Henry Stern, I learned that with the next generation we are in good hands. Pay attention to them!
As I start my own journey, I will keep these lessons close.