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District representative: What I do and how much I make

Fernando talks about his work as a district representative for a state senator, including key responsibilities and compensation.

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Video transcript

My name is Fernando Morales, I'm 27, and I'm a representative for State Senator Ben Allen's office. My main responsibilities, I would say that the first one would be outreach, and that's about 60% of my responsibilities in the office. And that's going to community meetings, whether it's a chamber meeting or a neighborhood council or a homeowner's association, hearing what the issues are there, whether it's homelessness in Hollywood or transportation in the mid-city area, and really getting to have my hand to the pulse of the community so that I can communicate that to the senator. A lot of the times, that involves speaking on his behalf when he is in Sacramento for the legislative session. So I get to be his proxy in many ways, which is exciting and a little, it drives a little anxiety when I have to public speak, but I do enjoy doing that part of my job. Another 30% of my responsibilities in the office, I would say, are mostly administrative or clerical. Whether it's planning or setting up logistics for events, producing letters or certificates for community members, whether it's a graduation, Eagle Scouts, or whatever it may be, making sure that I can complete that for those constituents. The last 10% is staffing the senator, which means attending with him to different community events, letting him know which community members have the questions and the concerns, and making sure that he can address them and go to them to get to, you know, have some one-on-one time and hear them out. No one day is the same at my job, and I tend to enjoy that. Back when I was younger, I had this fantasy of having this job in which I went to sleep in a different place than where I woke up, it was just constantly moving. Little did I realize I could do that in the same place, it's just every minute of the day, and every different day is different regarding which event I could attend. The communities that I represent are so diverse that there's just such a wide array of issues and conversations, so I could be, at night, at a gala for a non-profit, or, you know, I could be at a neighborhood council meeting talking up planning and some of the issues that the constituents have been encountering there. So there's a very wide range, and a lot of the times, it leaks into nights and very early mornings, sometimes, weekends, but I mean, it's all different, so at least it never gets boring. District representatives, on average, make about anywhere from 35,000 dollars to 50,000, 55,000 dollars. In my particular case, I had some experience beforehand in public relations, and I've been in this similar position for about three years, one year of that in the State Assembly, so my current salary is about 43,000 dollars or so. Whenever I was told I had the job, I was asked what salary I was expecting or what I would need, and I actually significantly undershot them, just from being paid hourly before. I said look, I'll take 30,000, and then, you know, they laughed for a second and said, oh no, we were gonna give you 35, we just thought you were gonna go higher. So if I had been a little savvier, I'm sure I coulda started up a little higher [laughs]. My job comes with great benefits when it comes to healthcare, dental, and vision, and, you know, it's not the most competitive pay, so I think that is something that needs to be taken into consideration as well. Other than the benefits, there are some perks to the job, and the perks would include having access to certain people that know, and they're the specialists of whatever field they're in. You know, I could talk to a professor at UCLA who's been doing groundbreaking research on neurobiology. I could talk to a CEO of a tech company in the Silicon Beach community that's growing. At some point, I could talk to the Secretary of California, Secretary of the State Alex Padilla, and I have. And it's really exciting to be able to hear directly from people that are affecting that change in whatever it may be.