10 Weeks Across the Street from the California Capitol
Since its inaugural cohort in 2015, the University of California at Riverside sends rising seniors and recent graduates to Sacramento to participate in an internship as part of the Ronald O. Loveridge Summer Fellowship. This highly competitive program provides selected students with a stipend to assist with housing and living costs, but students must obtain internship placement by themselves. UC Riverside students have interned for the Lieutenant Governor, the Assembly Speaker’s office, and League of California Cities, among others.
This summer Andrea Mares, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, interned with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). At the end of her internship, Andrea reflects on her summer with CSAC.
What brought you to the internship?
During the time that I was applying for the Loveridge Fellowship, I was interning for CSAC Executive Committee Member and Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chair Chuck Washington. I was astonished to discover the vast responsibilities of county government, but my scope was limited to government in the Inland Empire. Unaware of how counties were heard and advocated for at the Capitol, I wanted to explore beyond my county lines. CSAC previously hosted a summer intern from Supervisor Washington’s office, so the connection was made easily.
Why did you want to do the internship?
I really wanted to not only explore outside of my region, but also understand what associations provide for their members. I quickly learned that CSAC serves as a facilitator of communication not only between counties and state government, but also between counties themselves. Throughout my time at CSAC, I participated in many events, including a Regional Meeting and frequent conference calls, which bring together neighboring county officials to discuss best-practice approaches to their challenges.
What were your days like at the internship?
Every week in the office was different and exciting. Before the Legislature’s summer recess began, I listened to numerous hearings and watched as CSAC legislative representatives testified on behalf of its members. I attended my first CSAC Institute class on the history of financing California counties less than a month into my internship and helped host the New Supervisors Institute Reception the week after that. I read about the innovative programs counties across the state are creating and analyzed bills that impact county government. Each week, I witnessed the great work that CSAC is doing for all 58 of its members. By the end, I had been exposed to every arm of the association, which work together to effectively support counties.
What was beneficial about the internship?
The internship really helped confirm what I was already thinking at the beginning of the summer: I would really like to broaden my experience horizon and demonstrate the importance of local government by illustrating what cannot be done efficiently at the state level of government. Further, the internship gave me the chance to work with like-minded mentors who were always willing to answer my questions and connect me to people who can help me advance my education and career in Sacramento.
Overall, it was a great learning and networking opportunity. More than just learning about state and county government, I learned new skills. Before the internship, I had not witnessed such vast amounts of networking and frankly did not know how to walk up to a person and talk about their career or my career aspirations. The nurturing staff at CSAC took me under their wing and helped me gain the confidence to do so.
What did you learn from the internship?
These past 10 weeks of working full-time for the CSAC not only taught me more about the critical services provided by counties, but allowed me with a behind-the-scenes look of how associations work tirelessly to serve their members. My biggest takeaway from my summer with CSAC is that collaboration can alleviate a lot of problems — whether it is between state and county, county and county, or between county departments. Of all the CSAC Challenge Award entries I read, partnerships proved to be an effective solution for many of the challenges counties are facing, rural and urban alike. Further, the collaboration I witnessed between CSAC and the State Legislature illustrated how effective communication can be in finding a compromise. The way that this association seeks out advice and comments from the counties proves that the communication is not a one-way street. Rather, the collaboration flows both ways and makes for strong county representation in the Capitol.
How did the internship shape your future plans?
Prior to this summer, I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree but was struggling on where and when. After spending almost three months in Sacramento, I have developed an interest in obtaining a Master’s degree from Sacramento State or USC Price School of Public Policy in Sacramento and applying for the Capital Fellows Program. I hope to return to Sacramento after completing the Western Riverside Council of Government Fellowship and one day represent counties in the California State Legislature!