Week 4: Remember the People

Katherine Hsu answering a call at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office

This week, my placement in the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proved to be yet another week of learning and understanding. Between working on asset mapping with fellow interns, organizing a civic education workshop for Asian Pacific Islander community leaders, working at the Mayor’s Help Desk, touring the Dodgers Stadium, and picking up whatever day-to-day tasks needed to be completed, I came across a multitude of individuals throughout the city working to better their lives or others’. In such a fast-paced environment, it can be easy to forget the humanity of the person on the other end of the line. But this week, I also had many opportunities to slow down and really focus on the people I was serving and was better able to assist them as a result.

Customer service is a phrase that’s often filled with dread—images of irate customers and understaffed HR workers are often conjured up. But strangely enough, I’ve never considered my shifts at the Mayor’s Help Desk to be a burdensome. In fact, the moments in which I’m able to directly reach out to a constituent and help guide them to the resources they need give me a sense of shared happiness. I’m grateful to be able to have a chance to help fellow Angelenos through their day.

To an individual unfamiliar with dealing with government, this institution can seem uncaring, far-away, and confusing. One of the constituents I was able to help this week began our conversation with, “I know I’m just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people all over Los Angeles in this situation, and that you’re probably already dealing with all these situations, but I just don’t know what to do”.

Calls like these are peppered throughout a regular workday, but from the perspective of a constituent, the voices on the other end of the line have the ability to change their entire situations. Effective and inclusive government must be simultaneously large enough to care for our constituents, while also being small enough to reach out and assist when they are in trouble. Our job is an important one, and must not be taken lightly.

Once a week, my office at City Hall provides structured programming for interns to learn more about how our city runs, either through brown bag lunches with city officials or by visiting prominent institutions within the city. This week, we spent a day at the Dodgers Stadium, learning from high-level executives and mentoring the students from the Boys and Girls Club. From the managers, I learned about the intersection of different fields in today’s workforce. For example, Megan Schroeder, the Manager of the Research & Development team, “never thought [her] interest in computer science and biology” would lead her to the Dodgers, yet a background in both these fields allows her to work with technology to pinpoint damage to the players’ bodies before they happen. Later, the Boys and Girls Club students shared with us their aspirations for middle and high school, their favorite TV shows, and their opinions on Lebron James moving to the Lakers.

Events like these remind me of how interconnected our world is, and how the simple act of reaching out and offering help or asking for advice brings us closer together. Through doing so, at the end of the day, we can make our place in our city a little less small, a little less uncertain.