Week 6: The Meaning of Public Service

Sylvia Guan, 2017 CAUSE Leadership Academy

At the core of public service are the people. All of the certificates, cases, and events—we do all of this to serve our district’s constituents and meet their needs. That notion became more apparent to me in every task that I did this week.

Sylvia Guan at the Cypress Community Festival

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to help a fellow staffer of Senator Josh Newman’s, Kaelin, table at the Cypress Community Festival. Having to staff all these different events gives me a better understanding of the district I live in. Cypress is half an hour away from where I live so I don’t get many chances to come to this city. Sometimes, it’s hard to think beyond the small suburb that I grew up in because it felt so insular. However, I am glad that I was exposed to the different issues and concerns that other communities face through this kind of community outreach.

It was a small, festive celebration. Various people stopped by our table – people from both sides of the political spectrum. We handed out brochures and pamphlets and explained the services that we provide. I realized how important it was to for our office –and that of any elected official— to do outreach like this so that the public knows who their representative is and where they can contact us.

I have also been working on a few different cases with constituents for the past couple weeks now. On Friday, I decided to call back some of the constituents to get any updates on their cases. I always find the scope of power that our office holds so surprising in issues like veterans affairs, higher education, and taxes. Some people, like one of the constituents, I was working with, call or notify a state agency, like the Franchise Tax Board, about a specific issue they are having, but do not get a response for weeks on end. What I do in my capacity is try to expedite this process and connect these people to someone who can help them. And it usually only takes a call from our office for these issues to be resolved.

Although it took a couple calls, voicemails, and emails, I was eventually able to connect one constituent with a representative from the California State University. I was so ecstatic when the constituent told me that, “It’s no coincidence that we received a letter right after you gave them a call.” I remembered how worried she had been when I first took her call and began her case, and now to hear her express how grateful she was for my help and the work our office did, I did a few fist bumps in the air after we finished our phone call. What a huge victory! It was the most satisfying experience I have had since I started working at my office.

From all the interactions I have had with the district’s constituents this week, I have come to understand the meaning of public service. It will always be about and for the people. I am grateful that I get a hand at making a positive impact in my community every day in the office.