Maya Rodriguez, 34

They say a woman needs to be asked 7 times before she runs for office. Maya Rodriguez, 34, was asked far more than seven times. This year she is running for City Clerk in the city of Perris, California, learn from Maya how your city clerk can support you.

If you can get a beer with any politician right now, who would it be?

That’s such a good question for me because I’ve had a beer with quite a few politicians. I would have to say Autumn Burke.

I think she's so passionate and driven. I’m 34, I’m on the older end of being a young Dem, and it’s really hard to find female role models, so I find myself looking at women who are three or four years older than me thinking, huh I want to be her when I grow up.

Where is your favorite place to hang out in Perris?

I love La Gare Coffee. It’s a great little coffee place that opened up a couple years ago. I think it’s a perfect answer to the mass market coffee chains. The owners are amazing, and they’re the only ones that have Nutella lattes nearby. They really listen to their customers and make sure they’re part of the community instead of just being a business.

How do you keep up with what the issues are in Perris?

I tend to ask people around me what's going on, and I don't just mean neighbors. I will stand at the grocery store and start a conversation with local community people while I pay for things, just trying to find out what's going on with people. I also turn to social media a lot. I make use of Google, I make use of basically any option I have to find out what’s going on. Sometimes I even ask friends who don’t live in the area what they’ve heard about Perris.

So kind of going off on that. How did you hear about Perris? You moved there 5 years ago, what drew you to the city?

I came for the people. I used to live in Perris then I came back five years ago because I’m close enough to be around a lot of interesting things. I’m in the middle of everything. Two, I love the sense of community. Everybody's constantly trying to come together and make something happen. This is a town where people actually want to know their neighbors and wants to go to community events. It's not like other areas that I've lived in, where you go to a community event and it flops because people are trying to distance themselves.

In your own words, what is a city clerk? What does that role entail?

The city clerk is the master organizer of your city hall. They keep records of all of the meetings, all the ordinances that have gone through and how they’re being applied locally. They are your person of contact at city hall. They’re the person who assists in some really mundane sounding tasks that are necessary.

What kind of quality should I be looking for in a city clerk when I'm voting in local elections?

Organization, definitely somebody who has a strong sense of organization. Not just on a personal level, but a person that has gone out in the community and taken on the roles that nobody else wants to take on.

In my case, I’m also the treasurer for the Riverside County Young Democrats. So I'm already in a position staying organized where I've been helping the community. I would look for a candidate who is going to take those roles on.

If I was not involved in government, when would I have to interact with my city clerk?

You would go see your city clerk if you had to file for a small business license. Or if you need to talk to code enforcement. Or if you need to get records from a previous city council meeting. You would talk to your city clerk for basically anything you need that goes beyond your personal home.

So if you have a question about a city meeting that happens, you can ask your city clerk and they'll be able to find not just the name of the thing, but also the description. They're the person who also helps you to file to run for office on a local level.

So when you did hear the call, why did you decide to run for office? And why this position? What when was the moment you realized you need to do this?

My sister did the program Emerge, and they tell you frequently that a woman has to be asked seven times to run for office. I’ve been asked far more than seven times and I kept saying I wasn't going to run for office. And then a friend of mine sent me a message and said this office is what we need you to run for.

And I thought and thought. This one makes sense. It makes sense because I want to be the person who can help organize and make my own town more efficient.

So for me, it's just a light bulb. Within a week I announced that I was running. I had a very short time from realization to action.

What issues in the office do you think need to be addressed? And where are you hoping to see the office grow?

I can't say the current clerk is doing a bad job, but I think they could be more efficient. In talking to other members of the community and paying attention to social media, a lot of the complaints come from people not feeling that there's enough transparency when it comes to getting information. They don't know how to get this information. And they say that when they go on to the website, the information isn't necessarily there. So I want to make I want to make the gateway between the council and community easier to navigate.

Who have been your mentors in your political career?

That would have to be my sister. My sister has always been there for me. She’s the number one person in my life and she's been an amazing mentor. She’s taking on these huge endeavors and has allowed me to participate with her until I was able to find my own voice.

She's amazing, she's wonderful. She's a person that gets invited to speak and introduced me to politicians. And I love her for that. I love that she's given me the ability to grow in my own way and also allowed me to meet amazing other women like Kimberly Ellis, who is phenomenal.

So how do you think we should get more people engaged with their local office? How do you engage people to be more aware of what's going on in the community?

That’s a hard one because if there was an easy answer it would’ve already been done. I do like that members of our city council are out there and involved in events, that’s been beautiful.

It's hard to say. I'm really trying to research how that's done. Because most people just don't know how their local government works. They don't even know the name of their own mayor.

It all comes down to exposure. City council has to be out there and talking and walking and not just during election time but all the time.

You’re very involved with Young Democrats. how do we get more young people involved in the party itself? And what changes do you hope to see in the party and not just on a state level but even your local boards?

I can say that the Riverside Democratic Party has been wonderful about growing their base of young members. We've had a huge influx of young people and it's been beautiful to witness and to be a part of.

But we have to stop saying wait your turn, you don’t know what you’re doing yet. There needs to be a mutual respect because that's what young people want. They want to feel valued, otherwise they're gonna go off and they're gonna do whatever else they think they can do to help out their community.

What would you say to other millennials who are thinking of running for office? What advice would you give them?

Explore what the office does, so you know what it entails. Don't take anything too personally. Not just the negative stuff but also the positive. Sure there are plenty of people who are going to criticize you. But do not take it personally when your friends won’t donate $10 or someone gives you some well-meaning, but terrible advice. This is your race, and you have to do the work.

 The views expressed in this interview are those of the candidate, and do not reflect the beliefs and views of Ballot Breakers or its staff.

Lacy Wright