This week’s 30-in-30 honoree is U.S. Representative Pete Aguilar. Representative Aguilar, an alum of Leadership Southern California 2005, was re-elected in 2016 to represent the 31st Congressional District of California and serves on the House Appropriations Committee. Continue reading to learn more about his leadership style and experience with SCLN.
Rep. Pete Aguilar Member of Congress California’s 31st District
I’m honored to be recognized during SCLN’s 30-in-30 year-long celebration this year. When I first joined the Southern California Leadership Network, I was immediately struck by the variety of leadership styles I observed. Having the opportunity to spend time with community leaders from throughout Southern California was an invaluable experience, as I was able to learn from the examples of my peers and improve on my own leadership ability.
When I first decided to seek a seat on the Redlands City Council, I did it because I wanted to give back to my community and to provide a voice to those that didn’t have one. My family has called the Inland Empire home for four generations, and it’s always been important to me to make sure that everyone gets a seat at the table.
We are now in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, and I’ve been reflecting on some of the Latino leaders who have paved the way for people like me. From Cesar Chavez to Dolores Huerta, the most influential leaders in the Hispanic community have been those who were able to listen to many voices and speak truth to power on behalf of their communities. Their examples inspired me when I was struggling to find my voice as a public servant, so I began having conversations with my neighbors. I would hear about potholes that needed fixing or stoplights that were malfunctioning. I would hear about schools that were underfunded, and parks in need of maintenance. I would hear about people’s struggles and their triumphs, their accomplishments and their shortcomings. I remember feeling overwhelmed, knowing that not all these problems were problems I could fix, but I also remember how many times I heard, “Thanks for listening.” People want leaders that can solve their problems, but more than anything, they want leaders who will listen to their concerns first.
Now, as the representative for California’s 31st Congressional District, I speak for almost 800,000 people. As daunting as the task often seems, I’ve found that the most important thing I can do for my community is listen to them. The more time I spend talking to people on the ground in Southern California, the more confident I am that I can advocate for them in Washington. And whenever I feel overwhelmed by the job, I always do the same thing that Latino leaders have been doing for generations- I have a conversation.