Q. What experiences have prepared you for your new job?
A. Over 20 years at the NCLR, I have learned an enormous amount about how to connect local actors—in this case NCLR’s nearly 300 affiliates—to the policymaking process. I have learned that the most important work and the most talented leaders are largely not those operating in Washington, but those working in local communities. I am lucky to have been in an organization that works very hard to lift up and support innovative work that otherwise may not get noticed—this is very much what my new job is going to involve. The Obama administration will need strong partnerships with state and local leaders. I think my time at NCLR has taught me the value of those kinds of relationships.
Q. What are the changes you are going to have to make to shift from a focus on advocacy on Hispanic issues to working for the president of the United States?
A. For me, the biggest change will be shifting my role as an advocate outside the government to someone who is part of the government itself. I suspect I will always be an advocate in some way. But working inside the government requires a different set of skills. I’ve been using this period of transition to focus on these changes and make sure I’m as sharp as possible when the job begins.