I am a fourth generation California native and the proud descendent of dedicated public servants. On my mom's side, my great grandmother was a trailblazer. She was one of the first women to graduate from the University of California and part of the first crop of women to run for elected office.
It's a tradition that's alive and well in the Atwater family today. The old joke is that "Good Government is the Atwater family religion."
On my parents' fridge, a note in crayon color reads: "Mrs. Atwater!! I love you so much! You are the best teacher I could ever have. I had you for three years and I savored every second of it!"
My mom is the sort of person for whom that's all the recognition she'll ever need. She just quietly does the right thing and gets kids to learn.
On the other side of the family, my Dad is an impressive person. He's a former presidential appointee and generally considered a "Grand Poo-Bah" of the California water industry. His resume, however, doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what he's about.
When I was a kid, we all had to take short showers. No if's, and's, or but's. The same policy applied to turning off the lights. Efficiency was sacrosanct. Public resources mattered.
As I grew up, dinner table conversations were dominated by blue sky policy questions. How could California cope with the pressure of population growth and climate change on scarce natural resources? Politics didn't enter the equation. What was in the public interest mattered.
Today, my parent's house has no lawn. Instead we have California native landscaping. It uses a ridiculously low amount of water. Living by what you preached mattered.
These basic good government concepts -- efficiency, working for the public good, ethical policymaking -- aren't just pretty words to my dad. They're principles that pervade his entire life.
And for me, living up to that matters. It's why I do, well, what I do.
It's why I volunteer as a college bound mentor and why I'm doing a Riordan Fellowship over at LAEP. Because, as my mom taught me, every child deserves the opportunity to learn.
It's why I've worked in public policy my entire professional life and why I work in public finance. Because, as my dad taught me, sound institutions are the foundation of a society that creates opportunity.
It's why I advocate for good government in California and why I wrote A New California Dream.
Because public service matters.