Asm. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) is a very accessible public servant, who 2 Urban Girls befriended via social media. Melissa is an outspoken woman on topics ranging from women’s rights to transportation and is a proud veteran. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Melissa was elected to the Lake Elsinore city council in 2008 before moving on to the State Assembly to represent 67th District constituents. Melissa has an interesting background, that includes serving in the armed forces, raising her five children and having time to engage those of us on Twitter. Melissa was also gracious enough to share what we, the voters, should be looking for in our next commander-in-chief, especially since she has worked for three herself.
How did you get started in your political career? Was it a specific event or a long-term desire to help others?
I never aspired to running for office. It started with my husband and father-in-law suggesting I run for city council. I looked at the members of the council and saw there was no one who represented my demographic: someone far from retirement and still raising a family. I wanted to make sure those like me were represented in my city.
2 Urban Girls remembers your son repurposing your campaign signs for his own political aspirations. Do any of your children wish to follow in their mom’s footsteps?
So far the only one is my daughter, although my oldest is an office holder in student government at his high school. And all of my kids who have been old enough to compete have been on student council. I should note that my 12-year-old daughter also wants to be a dolphin trainer and a horse trainer. Oh to be 12 again.
To our understanding, you served in the armed forces. What branch did you enlist and under which administration(s) did you serve?
I joined the Navy when I was 19. I wanted to get out of my small town and get my education. Being steel mill workers in Ohio, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. But I had it all figured out. I was going to join the Navy, travel the world, and get my nursing degree while in the Navy. I succeeded in accomplishing the first two, but the nursing was not meant to be. I chose instead to become a Russian translator. That was the best decision I ever made. I served under Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush and Bill Clinton.
What are the most valuable lessons you picked up during your time in the armed forces? Do they directly affect how you govern your district?
The military is full of people from every religion, race and political background. I learned early on in the Navy that none of that matters when you have a task to complete, because there are a lot of people counting on you. In the military we enjoyed learning about where our coworkers came from, their traditions, their values. Standing watch for 12 hours was often made more bearable when you were getting to know and appreciate the person next to you. The same principle applies to my job now I suppose. Obviously politics is front and center most days, but I look at it the same way, people are counting on me.
Do you believe you are a strong advocate for veterans? Why or why not?
As a veteran, and someone who is married to a veteran, I do believe I’m in a unique position to advocate for our veterans. When you’ve worn the uniform it certainly gives you a different perspective. There is nothing more insulting and irritating than seeing a politician trot out a veteran, in an effort to prove their own patriotism, while actually doing little for that veteran. I strive to be the one who does something. Most times work for vets is done in the district, where I can have the most impact.
Finally, as the country prepares to elect a new Commander-in Chief, what qualities/characteristics, should voters be looking at when casting their vote?
Just like there is no perfect spouse, there is no perfect candidate. In this age of media updates 24/7, I think it’s overwhelming for people to find what’s truth and what’s fiction. I think voters should be looking for a President who has the ability to make good on the promises he/she makes. Someone they can look at and say “I’d trust that person with the safety of my son or daughter” while they serve in the military. And of course, they have to be absolutely convinced their candidate is trustworthy.
Asm. Melissa Melendez proudly serves the residents of Canyon Lake, El Sobrante, French Valley, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Temescal Valley, Wildomar, Winchester, Woodcrest. Visit https://ad67.assemblygop.com/for more information and internship opportunities.