Name: Christian Romo
Occupation: Field representative for Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and chairman of the Kern County Democratic Party
Hometown: Born and raised in Bakersfield
Tell us how you got into your field. I began my career in public service at the age of 15, as a sophomore in high school by volunteering with an organization called Building Healthy Communities doing monthly park cleanups. I soon worked my way up to become a community organizer, and I was mentored by some of the best organizers in the state, including great civil rights leader Dolores Huerta.
What is your “why?”: Working in public service isn’t as easy as some people may believe. To be a public servant means just that: To put the will of the people before oneself. This industry, like any other, has its ups and downs and I would be lying if I said I’ve never had my days where I wanted to drop everything and walk away. However, even on my worst days, the reason I get up out of bed and make it through is because I think of all the hardworking families that are depending on me to help them navigate through government and solve their issues. When people come to our office, it often times is their last resort. I always promise them that no matter what happens I will be there with them every step of the way until their problem is resolved. Even if I change just one person’s life, it was worth it.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? The best advice I’ve ever gotten has been from my boss, Supervisor Leticia Perez. Although we grew up in different generations, we had a very similar upbringing. We were both poor East Siders just trying to make it by in a world that always left us out. When I first met her as an organizer early in my career, she told me something that would stay with me forever. When I asked her “How did you do it?” She told me “You have to out work everyone around you. Whatever the task, make sure to give it your all because hard work wins every time." Now, 10 years after our first interaction, I not only work for Supervisor Perez but I also serve as the youngest chairman of the Democratic Party in California. It wasn’t an easy journey but I know that it is because of that advice I got all those years ago, that I stand here today, still outworking everyone and giving it my absolute best.
What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome?: One of the biggest challenges I have encountered in my life is learning what my limits are. Sometimes it’s OK to say “no.” You don’t have to take every meeting. You don’t have to attend every event. You don’t have to take on more projects than you can handle. Know what your limits are and make sure you excel within that space. When I first started off, I wanted to do everything, and meet everyone and just do anything I could do to get ahead. Although it might work for a while, it’s important to give yourself a break and limit your workload before you become burned out and start making mistakes. I would rather do one thing perfectly than three things imperfectly.
What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far?: After working in politics for more than seven years now, I have seen it all. However, nothing can be compared to the biggest challenge we have ever faced this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oddly enough, it was during these difficult times that I experienced the proudest moments of my career. As we all watched the world shut down in front of us, I knew I couldn’t stay home and do nothing. When the governor issued the stay-at-home order, two days later the MLK CommUnity Initiative and I organized the first food distribution during COVID in Kern County, where we helped provide food and supplies to more than 1200 families in need. After that, our office then took the lead in bringing the first-ever drive-thru mass testing site to the Central Valley. But I didn’t stop there. As soon as vaccines were made more available to the public, our office also led the efforts to bring the first-ever drive-thru mass vaccination site in Kern County. I am proud of the work my team and I did during the pandemic. When the world seemed to be falling apart, I was proud to answer that call to action and help my neighbors in need.
What’s next for you in your career?: One of my favorite quotes says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” You never know what life will bring you, so it is hard to say what will happen next for me in my career. However, I can certainly say that no matter where my next steps may lead me, I know I will always devote myself to helping others in need. That could mean working in multiple levels of government, or working with nonprofits, or maybe even running for office one day. For now, I will focus on doing what I love and let God take the lead.
What advice would you give to other young professionals? Don’t ever doubt your potential. Go for that job that you think is out of your league. Ask for that raise you think you worked hard for. Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you know you have the knowledge and expertise to do something, then do it. Believe in yourself, and others will follow.
How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield?: Bakersfield may not be the cosmopolitan center of the world, but it is my hometown and I love it. The people who live here are some of the kindest, hardest working people I have ever met and that is what makes Bakersfield the great place that it is. But I believe we can make our home ever greater, if we just give the people a chance at a better life. That means we need more job opportunities and workforce development for people early on so that they can get the skills they need to thrive. That means we need to build affordable housing immediately so that people can have more stability. That means that we need to take the areas of town that have been neglected for years and revitalize them to show those residents that they, too, matter. I believe that by helping the weakest of us, it makes us all grow stronger together.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career?: I wish I would’ve known earlier on in my career how much I would be in the public eye and how much of my life would be put on display for everyone to see. Working in politics, your life can never be private again. I never went into this business for attention. I never cared to get credit and I always figured I could work behind the scenes without getting noticed. I was greatly mistaken. Although I have grown accustomed to it, I never thought I would have to ever go through this. But I still wouldn’t change anything about my job, because I know I do everything I do for a cause that’s bigger than myself.