by Lucy Liu, 2013 Fellow
Like a typical senior, the last few months prior to my graduation were spent in a frenzied job hunt. I had skimmed through a number of job descriptions and fellowship programs, but nothing really struck me…until I discovered the City Hall Fellows program. Within a few minutes of picking up the informational brochure at a UC Berkeley Career Fair, I knew that this program was the one. It was exactly what I was looking for – an opportunity to serve in local government.
I had been interested in public service and government affairs since high school, when I had my first leadership position as Commissioner of Performing Arts. Through my college years, I carried on that passion for public service and looked for opportunities to instill it in my extracurricular activities. For two years, I had the pleasure of working in the Department of Labor in San Francisco on behalf of the Secretary of Labor’s regional representative as well as the Human Resources division. While this experience helped me better understand the functions of the federal government and confirmed my deep interest in public service, I found myself reminiscent of the leadership role I had in high school, where I was able to work closely with the student community I was serving. As I searched for that first post-graduate job, I kept that intimacy in mind as a priority. I was looking to feel a strong connection between the work I was doing and its effects on the public, and I found it in the City Hall Fellows program with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
While I have only been at the SFMTA for a few months, I have found my time here to be fulfilling and rewarding every day. I have discovered that the local level of government is where that intimacy I was craving really thrives. Because it provides the most crucial services to its people, municipalities touch the public in almost every way on a daily basis. In particular, transportation is visible in just about every place one looks: on the Muni light rail vehicles, in the bus-only lanes, with the Bike Share program, even on the streets and sidewalks. All around me, I am able to see the tangible impacts and services the SFMTA provides to its people and know that I took part in that in some way. In addition, SFMTA engages with the public directly on a number of transportation projects through an active process of outreach to ensure that public feedback and suggestions are a part of the iterative policy process. Initiatives like the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to improve Muni reliability and Polk Street Improvement to increase safety measures all include a large volume of community meetings and discussions with the agency. My role in the Government Affairs division has brought me even closer to the public. On a daily basis, I help process, document, and respond to constituent requests and concerns that are forwarded by the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, or constituents themselves. Working with SFMTA staff to answer concerns and comments about neighborhood speeding, transit improvements, and bike safety has given me the opportunity to personally connect with San Francisco residents. My love of public service has always been rooted in serving the community, and here at SFMTA, I am able to see that deeply satisfying connection day in and day out.