A guest blog by: Nicole Reyes, 2015-2016 JLSD Junior CalSPAC delegate.
After learning I was slated to be the Junior California State Public Affairs Committee (CalSPAC) Delegate, I was whisked away to Sacramento for a 4-day crash course in politics, legislation and the Junior League. I was excited to represent JLSD and eager to roll my sleeves up and get started. I had no idea what to expect, but after speaking with Maggie Sayre (outgoing Sr. CalSPAC delegate) and Amanda Katona (incoming Sr. CalSPAC delegate), I knew it was going to be an amazing experience. It was that and so much more!
The weekend started out on Friday evening where I met all of the incoming Junior Delegates and we had a quick training on what to expect for the weekend, legislative terminology, and an overview of the operations of CalSPAC. It was a fun, informative start to the training, which was definitely needed because the next two days were going to be spent combing through bills relating to education, health, violence prevention including human trafficking, and family support.
Afterwards, we met up with all of the CalSPAC delegates from 17 Junior Leagues in California for dinner. I never had an opportunity to mingle with members from different Junior Leagues before, so it was great learning more about the impressive impact other Junior League women were making in their communities. Each Junior League has a different focus area and it was fun hearing about all the different events that were organized to make positive change.
The following morning, at 830 a.m., it was show time. After concluding routine business matters, each woman introduced herself and why she wanted to be her League’s CalSPAC delegate. These incredibly bright, talented and fearless women amazed me. Their energy and enthusiasm for wanting to make their communities better places was contagious. Most people express the desire to effect change but these women were actually doing it. For example, one woman was sitting on a Governor appointed county board regarding water rights. Another woman testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding a human trafficking bill.
In the afternoon, we heard from Rachel Michelin, the Executive Director/CEO of California Women Lead. She discussed the importance of women getting involved in government either at the local or state level to include Governor appointed, elected and volunteer positions on Boards or Ad-hoc Committees. She stressed the necessity of being involved and having a voice. Her talk was incredibly inspiring and left me wondering how I could find more time in my already busy schedule to volunteer more.
After Ms. Michelin spoke, the bill analysis marathon commenced and continued through the late evening. Of course, there was a break for dinner but the remainder of the evening was spent reviewing and discussing over 40 bills that CalSPAC would vote on whether to support the following day. It was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. To see all of these women come together and debate the finer points of each bill was impressive to say the least. To give you an idea, you could throw out a bill number and someone could tell you, by memory, the status of the bill, who wrote it, what it does, why it is important, and, in some cases, which organizations were supporting it and the fiscal impact to our taxes! It was evident that these women came prepared and, as a new delegate, I appreciated that because it truly set the tone for what was expected of me.
The next day was Voting Day. Instead of spending Sunday in the hotel conference room, we walked over to the Capitol building where we had a room reserved. The time had come for the delegation to vote on the bills we had discussed the previous day and what better place to do it than at the Capitol. Each Junior League was given one vote, which was placed after each bill was presented. Our vote was based on whether our League expressed the desire to support certain bills as well as whether the bill would positively impact Transitional Age Foster Youth and/or work to end Human Trafficking. Robert’s Rules of Order were utilized if that gives you an idea on the formality of the voting process. It was interesting to see how each Junior League voted, particularly after the lengthy discussion the evening before. The conference ended that night as the baton was passed from one leader to the next.
Monday was Day at the Capitol and we were joined by our very own Nicole Steele (President-Elect), Kimberly Skiff (Marketing Director – Elect), and Dominique Coulon (Advocacy Committee). We listened to motivating Councilmembers, Senators and Assemblymembers speaking about the importance of volunteerism. It was fascinating to learn why each of them decided to run for public office and what it means to them to be effective leaders. It was a great reminder that the work we do is important and truly does matter to our communities. We may not see instant results but over a committed period of time, positive change does happen.
If the weekend wasn’t already amazing enough, the JLSD crew was fortunate to meet individually with Senator Bates, Gail Gronert from the office of Assemblymember Atkins, and Assemblymembers Chavez and Maienschein in the afternoon. It was a great opportunity to introduce the Junior League of San Diego and exchange information about the issues we are working on, the bills we are supporting and learning how JLSD can work with their offices next year.
This weekend was an amazing experience and one that I will treasure, not only for all that I learned, but for the memories I made. I am honored to represent the Junior League of San Diego amongst these amazing women and look forward to my next two years in this position.