School Boards And Legislatures: One Public Servant's Lessons In Leadership And Listening

January 19, 2022 01:01:12
School Boards And Legislatures: One Public Servant's Lessons In Leadership And Listening
I See What You Mean
School Boards And Legislatures: One Public Servant's Lessons In Leadership And Listening
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Show Notes

Florida State Rep. Susan Valdes knows a few things about getting people on the same page. She's served the greater Tampa area in elected positions for almost 20 years. First as a school board member for the country's 8th largest school district, and today as a Democrat in a substantially Republican House of Representatives.

And yet after so many years on the front lines of politics, public policy, budgets and strong public opinion, Rep. Valdes looks to me like the calm eye of a storm. She's warm and welcoming. She focuses on the person to whom she's speaking, even in a room full of people there to speak to her. She never forgets she's in office to serve because she asked to be there to serve. And she knows how to listen - especially to people who disagree with her. Here are a few of my favorite moments: 

5:03 - Sometimes listening says more.

15:53 - Listening and learning go together, especially with legislation because bills come from experience. No one is an expert on every piece of legislation so we learn from each other's experience.

33:00 - Government exists to help us govern ourselves - with all our differences. So it takes a level of humility to do that fairly for all.

38:58 - Leading from the middle - but not the political center.

45:08 - How courageous conversations are needed to avoid the unintended consequences of legislation.

53:54 - How to balance the representation of well-organized and well-funded interests, with those less organized and funded.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:07 Welcome to, I see what you mean podcast about how people get on the same page or don't, or perhaps shouldn't today. My guest is Susan Valdez. Susan served 14 years on the Hillsborough county school board and is currently the district 62 representative in the Florida house of representatives, representative Valdez. Welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:00:26 Well, thank you so much for having me today. Lou, I'm really excited to be. Speaker 1 00:00:30 I'm excited. We're going to have a great conversation. Why don't you start off by giving listeners a short bio? Speaker 2 00:00:35 Absolutely. Once again, uh, my name is Susan Valdez first and foremost. I'm a mom of three children and grandparent to five and you know, wife to of 39 years to my husband, Jerry. Thank you. Thank you very much. And um, so that's a little bit of my personal, uh, information. And as far as my professional information, I was a practice administrator for many years, working with the indigent population. And I do not like that word because by the grace of God, you know, I could be indigenous in 30 seconds. Right. So, but, but that's what the program was called and, and working with the working for, I believe that that was, that was a very rewarding position because I saw individuals that were challenged with not only health issues, but financial issues and, and the stories of, I wish I would've could've should've right. And I would find myself helping these adults to retool by going back to school, either a technical college or something and finding something that maybe they wish they could have done, but because of decisions that they made, they didn't quite make it. Speaker 2 00:01:45 And before you knew it, you know, they were being retooled again and licensed and working as an electrician or a plumber or, you know, whatever. And now they're, they're out of dependency of, of the system to self-sufficiency and, and that's, that's a wonderful thing to see. And that's what makes this country, what it does is that we give people a hand up in by helping them with, with social services and the tools necessary to at least we give them the, the straps and the boots, right. To be able to get retooled. And that's the beauty of this country is being able to do that and, and navigate and live that American dream. So, um, so after that, Speaker 1 00:02:29 Yeah, you've had a long, a long, many years of service. So after that was, that was the school board Speaker 2 00:02:35 Was the school board. Yes. And, and the school board was, if not equally more rewarding in the sense that you can laser like really help a family with their child's educational needs instantaneously. And in that service there, uh, I'd never missed a graduation, went to all of the graduations because at the end of the day, that's the culmination of our work is how many students are actually walking across that stage with an actual diploma, with a career path of, of where they're headed towards life. So then from the school board to the state house, right from the, so from the school house to the state house, uh, since 2018, the, um, was more than honored and blessed by, by the community to help serve them in the Florida house of representative as their representative in district 62. And there, the work is a little bit different because unlike the school board, the school board, you had seven school board members in Hillsborough county, public schools and the superintendent that makes your leadership team it's, it was easier to try and build relationships with seven people versus in the state house. Speaker 2 00:03:49 There's 120, um, state legislators in the state of Florida and 40 senators. So you have to make, try and build relationships with 159 people all in the matter of 60 days while you're working on pieces of legislation, because we meet in session for 60 days and we had six committee weeks. So imagine the, the trust level that you have to have, and the ability to be able to build those relationships and, and find that common ground, because in 60 days we're going to be passing laws that are gonna affect individuals' lives. So it's important that we, that we try to do that. Speaker 1 00:04:33 Okay. So you have been in public service in, uh, in several different forms, right? For, for, uh, 20 or so years now, I don't. And in, in very public positions, right? Elected roles, school, board, and state house, you're not afraid of being, uh, on the front lines, politics, politics, public policy. What's your approach just broadly, what's your approach to getting people on the same page or when you can't, what do you do? Speaker 2 00:05:03 My approach is I listen a lot. I think that listening is such an important skill that oftentimes we don't utilize to its maximum potential. Sometimes when you say less, you really are saying more versus if one's quick to always give an opinion or say what's on your mind may not necessarily be impactful or intentional enough. So I've learned that through my years in service, and it's important to understand the different perspectives that we all have because how boring it would be if we were all the same. Right? So we know that we have our differences, even within party politics, there are even diverse thought patterns within, within the same PO a party. Sure. So I try to always stick to my values and, and respect others values as well, so that the conversation can happen. So if you, if one does not have respect for others and it's my way or the highway, if you will, that's never really going to last a long time. Speaker 2 00:06:24 And instead of building relationships, you're tearing down bridges that maybe have already been built. So my biggest strategy is listening a lot asking specific questions. If I don't understand an aspect of what it is that they're talking about, let it be trying to understand race, understand ethnicity, understand work challenges. Um, um, maybe even, um, why is there a certain level of dysfunction in organization, right? Sometimes you have to sit back, take a, take a step or two back, be quiet and listen, and observe. So that then from the outside, looking in one can frame questions and comments that will make them reflect and think, Speaker 1 00:07:18 Uh, you said some very profound things there very, very important for any relationship and couples, family, um, neighborhood, you know, on up to politics at any level first, knowing your values, right? And you kind of lead with them. You, like you said, something really important. There won't be a conversation if, if you're not listening and you know, it's funny if you Google anything about communication, um, effective communication, good communication. You see some preponderance of thinking about communication, being clear about being concise, about being persuasive, but it's all focused on the send and, and you don't read so much about the receiving about listening, right? If you ask somebody or ask a team at work, we're going to get some communication training. What do you think we need to work on? How many people are going to say, we need to listen better. I need to be a better listener. Speaker 1 00:08:21 Um, but it's, it's so true. It's so true. It's so true. And I've got my own ideas about that, but I don't want to go down that path yet because I want to know a little bit more about your technique. So you mentioned your values and you mentioned respecting others values, and you mentioned asking questions. You've been in thousands of conversations in the state, in the state Capitol, on the school board, uh, with other, with colleagues, with families, right? So what's a conversation go like when someone's approached, you let's say, and they've got, they might have something they want to persuade you about or persuade you to do, ask for your help on convince you, what does that conversation go like for you? Where's your head go? Where's your, what are your thoughts? Speaker 2 00:09:08 My thoughts go always to saying, do you give me permission to be honest with you? Speaker 1 00:09:16 And you asked that question sometimes explicitly or, or, or, Speaker 2 00:09:19 Oh, depending on the topic. Okay. If we're talking about, you know, serious topics and, and even if they're sensitive topics as well, because sometimes people, once you to just agree with what they're feeling or that their side is is, is it, and one respectfully, we'll just listen. Sure. Now, if you ask me, then you're asking me, then do you give me permission to be honest with you? Because if I don't ask that question and I just become honest, I might inadvertently probably offended that individual. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:10:04 It could happen. It could sound that or feel that way it Speaker 2 00:10:07 Could, or as though it could be dismissive, it could come off dismissive, Speaker 1 00:10:12 So confrontational Speaker 2 00:10:14 Or confrontational. Speaker 1 00:10:15 So that's why Speaker 2 00:10:17 Unintended consequence. Exactly. So when it's, when it's something like, like, like I will ask that question, do you allow me, give me permission to be totally honest with you? And once they say, yes, you share now, because then at that point I will always be with whomever, brutally honest in, in reference to, because that's the only way, the only way that you can, the only way one can resolve issues is by having as bad as it may seem or appear the real facts and the real truth. So that then you can build upon that and correct whatever ill came up, because if there's a piece of, of the puzzle missing, then you're still going to have, it's going to be a perfect product at the end, because you're still gonna have things that haven't been addressed because they were unknown, if you will. Speaker 1 00:11:24 So how do you couple, how do you, how do you couple, or sort of integrate the listing, which I'd like you to describe to me, I assume it's pretty active listening. You probably, I'm guessing you pick up on keywords that you think that they're saying, uh, maybe Fe some, not verbals non-verbals parents. Right? You see things and you pick up on it and you might ask about it. My guess is you want to really be sure you understand what they absolutely. You don't have to agree, but Speaker 2 00:11:57 Right. And it has to be, and it has to be genuine. It has to come off genuine. It can't, you can't act this out. Right. Right, right. You know, one, one can not be in a meeting and act engaged because it'll dissipate that acting will, you can't keep it up and see it. People can see it. People can see it. You can, especially kids kids know a phony in a heartbeat, you know? I mean, jeez. So, so having, having said that you have to be empathetic. You have to have some sort of feeling for whatever it is that that individual might be going through that maybe one has an experienced. Right. So, so trying to help to understand more about that feeling, if they're willing to, to share and engage, then one is able to help guide and, and help divert them into a different department or a different individual that could possibly help. That could actually laser like help them with. And I tell you that's because as a state legislator think about it, we vote. I, I vote on everything that has to do with the state government, whether it's the department of revenue, whether it's department of children and families, whether it's the department of education, the department of agriculture, there's a lot of departments. I don't know a lot of things about, Speaker 1 00:13:29 I don't have expertise in all those areas. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:13:31 Absolutely. And nor do I ever proclaim to say, yep, I know about that. Oh no, I'll be the first to tell you currently right now, I feel at times like a Jack of all trade and master of none, because of all of the things that I'm learning within the different silos. Right? Sure. I've learned more about, um, flood insurance and insurance and you know, than, than one would really want to know. But it's, it's, it's a good thing because I live a life of learning and by the same token, the job, cause that vote that I take to me means something I don't take this job lightly. Right. So when I make a vote, it has to be an educated vote because if yeah, absolutely. So if it's good for the people of Florida, I don't care who carries the bill. It could be a Republican, it could be a Democrat. Speaker 2 00:14:29 If it's a good bill on there, if it's a bad bill I'm not there. Right. And I'll tell you why I'm not there right now. There's a way of being able to take my concerns into consideration and, and help that specific area then great let's work together. That's the process that I take in Tallahassee working with the other side, um, my colleagues and the other in the other party where we really try to get to know where these pieces of legislations are coming from based on their experiences. So I try to, to incorporate and share stories of individuals back home of how maybe this particular piece of legislation may or may not help this Floridian, that they are also representing because all of us represent all of the state of Florida, right? So I have a lot of kids that I'm in charge of. And, and they're all my babies. There's not one, that's not, there's a lot of senior citizens that are my senior citizens. Right, right. And so anything that we vote that affects them, I really, really look at them very, very closely. Speaker 1 00:15:42 I want to connect two things. You mentioned listening and learning. Hmm. Speaker 2 00:15:45 Listening and learning and listening and learning is, is, um, it's crucial because if you don't listen, you won't Speaker 1 00:15:53 Exactly. I really think to listen is to learn. You use the word genuine. If you, if you genuinely listen, you were, you were perhaps asking to see something from the other person's point of view that you might not have had. Correct. So you could learn something from their ex, like you said, their experience from their perspective. I think it's also really important to understand everything we do in life. Politics included is a means to an end, a piece of legislation is a means to an end. A school board decision is a means to an end within education. And sometimes it's not always clear how means and ends lineup or work. And if I'm not clear on something that you're thinking, but I ask you Tommy, educate me, tell me what you're thinking. So I understand I might or might not agree, but before I decide I'm going to disagree. I want to know if I know, I want to understand what you understand, because I might have an aha moment. You might explain it to me where I go, oh, I didn't think of it. I didn't see it that way. I've not had that experience, but I, when you say it, then I can, I can relate to it. I can connect. So I think there's something about listening and learning that go together. Speaker 2 00:17:09 I'll give you an example of what happened not too long ago. And all of this, you can, you can go back and look at this committee meeting. It was with the children and family and seniors committee and where we've been talking this past committee past few weeks in committees about fatherlessness and what causes fatherlessness. And we had different present presenters, come in and talk about, you know, when you talk about the fatherlessness, you might think about those dads that are just completely disengaged from their children's lives. And the theme was like, it made me feel as though my gosh, not every man is a bad dad. Right? Having said that, how do we balance this out? It's so happened that I received a phone call from a constituent who was sharing his story of how challenging it was for him to have some rights with his children. And he fought, he fought, he fought because he loves his children and he wants to have a relationship with his children. And when he came and spoke to the committee, there was an aha moment because members of the committee were not thinking about the other side of, of the coin, of what happens to those that are good dads that are trying to do what's right by their children. And the system gets in the way. So, you know, those, Speaker 1 00:18:49 When we make, Speaker 2 00:18:50 When we make laws, when we make laws, there are unintended consequences, right. For the good players. And that's why we it's important that we have to listen. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:19:01 Yes. It's, it's critical. What do you watch for, or listen for, maybe you're picking up on their emotion first. So you know, that something matters to them. Something that means something to them. What are the ways you interact with them to get them to unpack that? So you understand that a little bit more and they feel, and they see that you understand it. Speaker 2 00:19:24 Yeah, absolutely. I believe that. I don't know if anyone that's listening to this has ever really gone into a legislator's office. It's, it's very, it can be a very cold feeling. It can be a very, what's the word I want to use Speaker 1 00:19:48 Impersonal, Speaker 2 00:19:49 Impersonal, but yet once position is elevated to such a level that, that it's like, oh my gosh, is she approachable? Is she, will she understand? Does she care? Um, because she's in this, in this state house of representatives, you know, think about it. That's like my state Congresswoman w w you know, oh my gosh, it's almost like we are unattainable. Right. So I tried to unapproachable and attainable, or just the mere fact. There's some folks in our community that feel that they're not worthy of standing before me, because they might not be dressed well or, or they, they, they may, you know, so that cultural aspects. So regardless, what I try to do always is have a welcoming atmosphere. Okay. My door is always open right now, my door, if you can, is open. Right? So it's one of those things that my staff can hear what I'm saying. Speaker 2 00:21:04 I don't, I'm an open book that way. Um, my staff knows that any individual that comes into our office seeking assistance, we will attempt to help. And if it's outside of our jurisdiction, we will find a way of getting them to where they need to go and connect it. And then hopefully that silo will then follow up with us. If not staff is very good about following back up with them to ensure that our constituents concern was addressed and hopefully resolved or with some sort of direction. So my office in Tallahassee, you walk in it's, it's going to be worn it's, it's going to be, uh, welcoming. It's going to be a place where we're going to have music playing in the background. I will offer you something to drink. I will offer you, you know, anything so you're comfortable. And now let's begin the conversation. And, and even when you have sometimes in leadership, you have to have very difficult conversations that are just difficult to have, because they're, they're, they're not a good topic. If you will, something ugly that's happened, then you have to address it. Even then when you have those difficult conversations, one can still have them in a manner in which they are in a welcoming way and still wind up getting the work. Not sure Speaker 1 00:22:43 You're showing respect, but more than that, it almost sounds more like what someone would do, welcoming someone into their home with some warmth, with some right. You're welcome here. And yeah. Okay. Okay. Speaker 2 00:22:59 Absolutely. You don't have to be a bully, right? Don't have to be like, what do you want? You know, that's, that's just the wrong the day. See that the day I forget who I am and where I come from. It's the date exactly. It's the day that you need to stop serving because there's nothing like servant leadership. And, and that's where I, I tried to go always think how I could be of service to others and, and helping others, because it's tough going through struggles on your own. And when, when one goes to different agencies to try and see about getting assistance, right. You know, you're just another number you're you just come in and maybe the level of customer service is not where it needs to be in order to make you feel welcoming and say, have a little bit of hope, right. You know, have a little bit of hope and that hope just can, can not ever go away. Speaker 1 00:23:59 One of the hardest things for all of us to deal with this strong emotion that someone else displays that could be sad about something, they could be angry about something that could be outraged about something they could be afraid, afraid. But sometimes when someone else has strong emotion that they display, we have to manage our own emotional response to that emotion. And we're not talking about the issues yet. We're not getting into what, why do you feel that way? What can I do to help? We've not gotten to that point yet. It seems to me that you've developed a way that you do that pretty comfortably for yourself. I don't think you're rattled by somebody walking in, whether it's a colleague of yours and you're not on the same page about some legislation or a constituent, who's really upset about something that happened in the district. Speaker 1 00:24:47 Tell me how you, how you talk to them so that you can, you want to hear, tell me, w w I see you're upset. Tell me more about it. So I understand. And then how you go from that part of the interaction of the conversation to, I think you said the phrase, you got to get down to the nuts and bolts of it eventually to see what you can do. So how do you start? You've already welcomed them. So there's that good setting. Now, that's the beginning of the conversation where maybe they're going to unload on you. Right. Speaker 2 00:25:16 Right. And, and when that happens, when that happens, I let, I don't take it personally. Right. Because again, in order to really find out what the root of the problem is, come in and tell me how you feel. I don't care if in the way that you are presenting yourself is, is with, um, explicit words or, you know, cause that's your way of getting it off your chest. So, so again, I look at people and look at individuals for who they are and what they're trying to do. And, and just, just again, if they come at with a different type of attitude and I have to be listening, I have to be empathetic. If it's a sad thing and they're, they're just spilling their guts and telling me what's going on. Then at that point, I'm there to, to hold their hand, listen. And if I cannot say anything or have a solution, at least I'm there as their ear. Speaker 2 00:26:15 And, and by the same token, at the end of the conversation, I'm going to give them a hug because maybe that individual, all they needed to do was just get it off their chest in whatever form it came in. So I never take it personally, right. Unless if, if they come at me personally, it's a different story. That's a different conversation. But if they come at me personally at the end, you know, it's, it's their opinion, which they are entitled to. And if I know that I've done everything that I've been able to do to help a constituent with whatever challenge they may have and it's everything that I've done can do. I know for a fact that my staff and myself we've done everything we can to help that constituent. And although there may have been a situation where wasn't resolved to their liking or that that's above my pay grade at that point, because I don't have access or have any jurisdiction over somebody else's department or anything like that. Right. And that the, the, the, the effort was actually put in to try and resolve an ill situation for that individual. So long as we can show the work that we've tried to do, and that we actually went above and beyond, then that's the best that we can. Speaker 1 00:27:41 You wished you could have helped them, but you have to be satisfied with your Speaker 2 00:27:46 Absolutely. Because at the end of the day, we, we cannot as legislators. I can not go over to a department and say, you have to do this. No, that is not the way it works. We can advocate how we need to change the way you do things in your department. That might be a conversation. You know, building relationships is not easy, right? Because it has to be a two way situation, right? So understanding what makes another legislator tick or, or what makes them who they are that takes time to learn. And it's up to each of us to try and build up and get to know each other in that quick turnaround time, because we're going to be supporting each other or be differing and pieces of legislation. So we still have to work together. Speaker 1 00:28:36 I don't want to, I don't want to dwell on this, but to go back to what we talked about a few minutes ago, I always felt, I always thought that if someone was feeling strong emotion, because they were displaying it, I could see, they felt strong emotion. I wanted to know why there must be a reason why you you're this upset or you're this, you know, fill in the blank, whatever the word is. And if you're coming to me, because of my role, I'm your spouse, I'm your father. I'm your neighbor. I'm your restate representative. If there's something I can do, I want, I will try. I want to know why it helped always help me to understand what they understood. Again, I don't have to agree with it, or maybe agreement's not even the point, Susan, if someone's had something. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:29:16 It's just, it's not that you agree or disagree. It's more so that it's a situation that, that, that individual is experiencing and it, and it may be so unique. He knows that world. Talk to you. Exactly. Talk to me a little bit about help me understand so I can better help you navigate. And, and sometimes for instance, in Tallahassee, a lot of people says, oh, representative, thank you for giving me 10 minutes of your time. You know, think about, think about that. What time do you have to build relationships in 10 minutes? Right. You know, so, so when I come into an appointment and they're coming into it, isn't, and it's not that I don't respect everybody else's time. Is that so much more so that I know how quickly my time gets booked up that then I may not be able to fully truly understand what those challenges are. Speaker 2 00:30:13 And then I'm just 10 minutes and okay, boom, you gotta go see, you know, I, I can't operate like that. I, if, if an individual needs to see me, so normally I try to give my appointments at least at a minimum half hour, um, at a minimum. And sometimes we go a little bit over because once, once they feel, once an individual feels comfortable with you and knowing your integrity, that you're not going to go out there and Blab everybody else's business out in the world. Cause that's another thing that trust the ability to know that just because that individual, that stranger, that came to see you, they have to trust enough to sometimes say the most deepest, darkest, true concern that they have about their lives. That then, you know, there's a trust factor there that you, you can't break one, can't break that trust with you, with your constituents. Um, so, so Speaker 1 00:31:16 It's very humbling thing to do if you have to ask them for help and you're really in a bad way. Speaker 2 00:31:23 Yeah. And, and, and could be perceived as well as, oh my God, are they going to judge me because of this or because of that. And I remind my constituents that all the way, we're a black jacket, it's not a black robot nobody's judged. And the day we die is when we're going to get judged. So I'm good. So long ago, there was a saying in Spanish that translates differently in English, but in Spanish is as BN. You know, media can do good and no matter who, You know, so it doesn't matter who comes by you. They need something, you do good by them and keep it Speaker 1 00:32:00 Moving. That's a principle, right. Ethic. Speaker 2 00:32:02 Yeah. As a principle. Exactly. Speaker 1 00:32:04 Do a good bit because you're going to get something good out of it. You don't do good for people because they could help you because yeah. Speaker 2 00:32:10 So you just do it because it's the right thing to do. Go in. You go help and keep it moving. Yes. Speaker 1 00:32:15 Yes. So, so I like to think about what's it mean to be on the same page? How do, how do we get there? What helps us get there? What gets in the way of getting us there and what do we do if we can't, I've done a lot of work in organizations. So the situation in organizations is as in politics to some degree, while at least while you're in office, you have people you have to continue to work with, even if you don't agree on things. So you, you have to, you try to build the relationship of respect so that you can work on other things. If you didn't disagree on one eye on one thing that, how, what did Tom just come tell me the things that come to mind when, when you think about what's it mean to be on the same page, how do we get there? What happens if we can, Speaker 2 00:33:00 Sometimes people utilize kindness as a weakness and, um, you know, this, this world and in politics can be, as you can see you, you're seeing it every day, how dirty and ugly indivisible it could be. And, and yet government was, was really put in place to, to help others and to govern, to help govern ourselves so that when we can live in a, in a safe society and, and live amongst each other, with all of our differences in all of our flavors and culture, right? Yet it's, it's important because our children watch us. And if we, if we don't lead with, with a level of kindness, a level of humility, a level of, of, I really truly care what happens in this zip code or in this community that I may not necessarily live in, but guess what you vote for me, one has to be present. Speaker 1 00:34:07 So what are we teaching them? If we fail to act the way you've just described Speaker 2 00:34:11 The elections, elections have consequences. And, and it's important that people get to know their representatives, get to know the candidates, you know, who are they voting for and why are they voting for them? Because it's, it's, it's extremely important that an all politics are local, really. I mean, think about it. My constituents will see me at a Publix will see me at a, Walmart will see me at a target, will see me in the mall, but they saw me more so as a school board member. Sure. Yeah. Right. Because I'm here all the time. Right. So being close to the people is super important because, um, then, you know, based on what the needs are in the community, what pieces of legislation you might need to look at and, and say, well, we need to tweak this a little bit. It might be a home rule thing. It might, there's so many things that could impact, but by the same token, it's, it's again, understanding that, although you and I may have strong philosophical differences at the end of the day, when we walk into these chambers, we are representing the residents of the state of Florida and their needs. And we have to work together. We have to work together. And the moment that there's an act of handle it right there, handle it right there. Because if you don't handle those times or those challenges, they're just going to build up on one another. Speaker 2 00:35:52 And then when the time comes, that that, that it explodes and it implodes, it's going to be super ugly. So the moment you handle things, when it happens and you handle them in such a one, handles them in such a way in which doesn't necessarily have to be public. Right. You just say, come here, let's have a conversation. Yeah. And then you lay down your law and say, this is what's, don't do this because this is what the consequences are going to be. And, you know, respect is respect. If you want respect, you got to earn it. I'll give you the respect until you no longer have earned it. Right. So making sure that people know where you're coming from, where one is coming from and an understanding, like for instance, I'm very passionate about education, about our children and, and their opportunities. So when I advocate strongly, my colleagues have learned that I'm really truly advocating for my passion. It's not that I'm pontificating to the camera or it's not something that's just by chance. They'll know that if Susan sees something that's inequitable, regardless of the child, whether it's a wealthy child in the public school system or one that, that, that isn't a title one school from whatever end of the spectrum. If this child is missing something and that child deserves to have whatever it is that it's missing for their success, Susan will advocate strongly for that child. It's, it's all about equity. For me, Speaker 1 00:37:34 That goes to something you said earlier about relationships within the capital. It would take some time for your colleagues to get to know you to know that when they see you speaking on something that way, look, let's say it's someone who doesn't have the expertise you have in your background. You have an education. They don't know up, down left, right? Blue, green font in the bill. Right, right. We said, you can't know everything. And, but they might, if they get to know Susan and they say, when she talks that way, I know she's, she's onto something. And it matters to her. I need to listen. And if, and if I had to take the vote right now, I might just vote the way Susan is saying we should have, because I trust her judgment because she's, I believe she's advocating for something. Then language in the bill. That's a means to the end of helping people the way she says we should help them. And I, and, and, but people have to learn that about you. You have, Speaker 2 00:38:30 Right. Absolutely. That's why that, that's why I started earlier. I think, think about having to build a relationship with 159 other individuals, two months, dad, and in two months or less Speaker 1 00:38:46 Activity going on. Speaker 2 00:38:47 Exactly. Exactly. So it's like O M G you have to make it a point to pick up the phone and say, Hey, I was just thinking about you today. How you doing? Yeah. Speaker 1 00:38:58 Yeah. Tell me, you said something to me earlier about we didn't, it wasn't when we were recording that you, you've never known how to work or lead. I forget what you said, except from the middle. Yes. Tell me re say that again and then told me what that, what you meant by that. Speaker 2 00:39:16 I, I lead, I lead in a very neutral manner. I look at people, I don't look at their, I don't look at people based on their party affiliation. I look at individuals based on their actions, how they interact with others, how they talk about others, Speaker 1 00:39:39 Their character. Speaker 2 00:39:39 Absolutely. So I get to learn how to speak to others. Speaker 1 00:39:45 Oh, I see. You're saying. Speaker 2 00:39:46 Yeah. So that then they can hear my message. And it's, it's a hard thing, Speaker 1 00:39:52 But I see what you're saying. It could be, you know, shirts or skins. There's, there's people of character on both sides. Absolutely. And people without character on both sides. Speaker 2 00:40:01 Exactly. Speaker 1 00:40:02 Doesn't matter if they're on your team or not, you, then you change how you interact with them because of their character. Because your goal is to serve from the seat you're in. If someone's going to serve with you, you're probably you're ready to work. Speaker 2 00:40:18 I'm ready to work. And I'm expecting that they're ready to work. Speaker 1 00:40:21 If someone's going to work. If someone has a different agenda, personal, whatever it is, whatever it is, it's just, it's not about the best interests of some segment of the Florida pop Speaker 2 00:40:32 By the same token, if we were legislators together and you had something on your agenda, you want to go to complete? Just tell me, this is my, just be forthright. This is my agenda, because this is what's happening in my hometown. And this matters. Okay. I got you. Speaker 1 00:40:49 It's interesting because if it was about education, you have a lot of background to share in that conversation with me. If it's about shipping and maybe, you know, nothing about commerce, the shipping number is Florida. But if I say to you, here's why it matters, Susan, and you, I have, I'm a man of character. Speaker 2 00:41:08 I would say, Speaker 1 00:41:09 Absolutely. You'll hear me differently than if I always look like I'm scheming or scheming something Speaker 2 00:41:14 You're right. Or that you're trying to benefit from something. Or whatever's like, you know, that shady business, right. Not, not into that stuff. So, so that's why that's so important. Speaker 1 00:41:25 So the leading from the middle was not was about the person, I guess, is what you were saying. It's about the Speaker 2 00:41:33 Person. It's more like more like what describes the person, quite female Republican. I'm just looking at Lu. Speaker 1 00:41:42 You're not making judgements about Chino Republic, Speaker 2 00:41:46 Right? Just because you have an R, just because you're a D or just because you're this or that. No, I, I lead from that middle of getting to know the individual and, and getting to know what their values are, how they operate. And if there's something that then during that conversation and I'll say, well, I'll look, I'll look at this in a different way. And this is why I would, okay, well, that's when we get to know, you know what those Speaker 1 00:42:23 Well, isn't it true too, that over the years there might've been people that you were more often than not on the same page. There might've been people that you weren't, but sometimes, sometimes when those differences are handled well, they become very creative. Absolutely. Right? So you might learn something from me. I'm not buying something from you because we had different background, different experience. And we brought something different to the conversation. But if we listened, we might come up with something that neither of us could alone, right. Something could emerge from the conversation that makes it better public, a better education policy, a better decision about school books. What's an example of what Speaker 2 00:43:00 An example of that. Well, yes. And even so, while I was on the school board, they were individuals that just not always on the same page and these were community members or even teachers that didn't really quite understand my whole trajectory. Right. And when I left the school board shortly afterwards, I was getting phone calls. I get it. Now I understand now I wish you were back, you know, certain things because of the fact, sometimes you're too close up on it. And what's that saying? You can't see the trees for the forest Speaker 2 00:43:43 Forest for the trees because you're too, you're too close up on it and you can't see it. The perspective. Yeah. The perspective. So, so that I think is what happens a lot. And, and even some of those individuals today that maybe were some of my most major critics, uh, on that worked with the school board today as a state legislature, they'll look at me and said, wow, I had it all wrong. You know? And it's a different perspective because they got to know Susan A. Little bit more intimately and understand what made, why I did certain things, which ended up benefiting students from, Speaker 1 00:44:26 From what I know about you, you were skilled at explaining what I, my phrase means to ends. You would be able to say, look, I see it this way because, or I think we should do this because, and I thought, if someone else could argue, say to you, let me give you the, if you want to look at it, Susan you're listen. But my point was for constituents or colleagues, I think you're skilled at providing the rationale, not just taking a position, but please understand. Let me explain why I'm saying this because so one, so, you know, too, if you got something, if you could, if you think of a different way and you could tell me, I might think of it a different way, but I don't know that yet. Speaker 2 00:45:08 Absolutely. Because until we have courageous conversations and real conversations, not just the fluff, you know, not just the feel good things. When we talk about a piece of legislation, tell me the good part. And what do you think might be the unintended consequence? I try to go through that with every piece of legislation that we, that we try to put forward is, is what is the easiest way for it to be a win-win situation and fix something that is, that is incorrect. So for instance, think about it. We create laws in 60 days that affect Floridians for a lifetime until they get amended again, 60 days, it's almost like they're not tested. They're not tried. It's just the idea sounds great. Almost like cooking spaghetti and making sure it's done by taking a piece of spaghetti and sticking it to the wall, you know, that the spaghetti's are done, right? Speaker 2 00:46:06 Yeah. Let's eat. So that's, that's almost sometimes how I feel that we make pieces of legislation and we'll have unintended consequences. And then we have to go back the following session and try and fix it, which sometimes it's hard. It's hard to revisit something. It may not get hurt in committee. It may not move and still the unintended consequences there. So one of the things that I've been talking about in my, in our committees is that when we try to make a piece of legislation, let's think about what other silos they are affecting. So for instance, one that I don't agree with is is that if you don't pay your child, support, your license gets suspended. I understand that there has to be some accountability. And if I take away, exactly, if I take away the ability to work, Speaker 1 00:46:58 To work, that could be more likely to pay your child support. Speaker 2 00:47:01 Nobody's winning, you know, nobody's winning, you know, the prison system might be winning because there's going to be another, another gentleman in prison. Right? Right. So there we go. So that's, that's where I think that we don't listen or we don't pay attention to how these pieces of legislation are going to affect other silos that then will affect the lives of Floridians. So I really try to, I'll ask staff than the help of bill drafting. Do you all see any conflicting, conflicting things that might affect other silos? Because that's not, I don't want to muddy the water. I want to clear the water. So everyone has a clear path of knowing if this happens then this, and if that happens, then that, and then if not, it goes this way, you know, you have a clear, Speaker 1 00:47:54 And like you said, it's hard to do that in side of 60 days. Yes. Speaker 2 00:47:58 Yes, it Speaker 1 00:47:59 Is. What about when, what happens when you can't get on the same page with someone? I don't think they're getting on the same page as the right outcome of all situations. Speaker 2 00:48:10 Just we'll wind up to agree to disagree. And if pieces of legislation still come forward, then the one way to bring awareness to how wild or how good or how bad a piece of legislation is, is to be able to talk about it in committee and put those points on the record. And then again, if it makes it to the floor, bring those points back up on the floor. If you think about the Florida house of representatives, there are 42 42 Democrats, 2 78 Republicans. So they're in the majority. So a lot of things that they're going to bring for may not necessarily agree with the philosophy of the Democrat party, but by the same token, the only way that we can bring things up to light about these pieces of legislation that may not necessarily be part of what our value system is. All we can do at that point is bring up these values, talk about it and put it on the record that this bill will hurt these kinds of people and just put it forth. Speaker 2 00:49:19 And then at the end of the day, it's just a matter of, of agreeing to disagree and then come back next session and try and make amendments or bring pieces of legislation again. And again and again, before they'll get heard. So it's, it's a process. So I want you to think about this for the, for the listening audience out there in the state of Florida, we have two year terms maximum of eight years. So every two years we must run for office. Within those two years, we have two sessions of 60 days of pieces of legislation and six committee weeks, right? So during committee weeks, that's when we trend to listen to bills and, and, and work these committees, right. Work, these bills. And then you run for office again. So it's almost, you have eight years to try and make a difference in sometimes your piece of legislation. Speaker 2 00:50:13 It might be bringing it back every session. And it gets a little closer because it was given to another committee and it got heard. And, but it never made it to the floor while you're bringing it back next year. And it's, it's just that constant reminder is something that you really, really, truly care about and that your, your, your constituents care about you don't give up on it. You don't give up on it. You, I bring it back to leadership has helped me make this bill better because this bill is going to help residents in my district and residents in the state of Florida. What is it that, that y'all, don't like about this bill, help me fix it, because this is good for most people. And, and when you, you know, when you cross over the aisle and you go have those conversations and share with them how important this is to you and your constituents, you know, expect these being that good, good steward, good member, good. That good individual. And that's how you keep doors open. Speaker 1 00:51:10 And do you think, do you find it mostly possible doable most of the time or more often than not, that interest could be a balanced. So if somebody thought that something you were proposing would have an adverse impact on the business community for any, just to pick one example, do you find that most of the time, if you have that genuine conversation where you dig into the issues, you could find a way to balance the interests so that European legislation could move forward and maybe that's over simplified. Speaker 2 00:51:38 You're you're, you're just right. You're right on point, you are right on point the way you described that, for instance, I'll give you an example. Many of the doctors in my community have shared with me, you know, think about when you go have a procedure and you're given an authorization number, right. To have a procedure. And then when the claim gets filed, that claim gets denied because it was not authorized. What do you mean? I had an authorization number, right? So now it becomes a retroactive denial. So I try to put a piece of legislation about not allowing retro active denials to occur. The insurance industry went crazy. So it's like big, you know, we had a conversation. I says, well, we need to do better on ensuring that if we have an authorization for physicians to do a procedure, it's not the patient's fault. At that point, they got an authorization number. That means that the insurance company approved this procedure, you're obligated to do something. We'd have to do some, you know, you should do so, but that's, that goes with the territory. You know, you're going to have those times in those instances where I'm looking at the consumer, the patient, why should the patient have to pay for this test that is now maybe 2,500 and some change while they have insurance and you had an authorization number for it. I don't get that Speaker 1 00:53:07 Moneyed interests are okay. Be powerful, organized interests can be very powerful. And I know that you probably keep one eye on those who aren't as organized, whose interests aren't as organized, whose interests aren't as well funded, trying to make sure that they're represented faithfully and fairly to, and that their interests are met through legislation are not harmed through legislation. And because I think probably from a principle standpoint, you felt like that's what you were elected to do. That's your job. So what are the, what, what is there a ground? Is there a same page to get on? Is there a common ground to create around principal? Like you just talked about what are those conversations like when money and organize interests are behind? Part of the conversation Speaker 2 00:53:54 I tried to do and I've done is I'll bring those players together to table. All right, now we've got trouble in Houston. How are we going to fix this? You know, sometimes it's not that easy, right? To just say, you know, how do we fix this? And the mere fact that we brought those two individuals of saying, okay, this is my constituent. Y'all had caused this problem from my car. How do you fix this? We need, we need to find a common ground of how we can move forward. And the only way I know how to, how to get to the root of the problem is by bringing all of the stakeholders together and having a real conversation, it has to be a respectful conversation. It has to be a conversation that we are looking to see how we can come up with a solution to a problem that may or may not exist because we may find out that, oh my God, well, this is a problem here. Speaker 2 00:54:53 It's not here. Well then how, how do we create it so that we bridge those two and there is no problem, period. You know? So the only way, again, those relationships, that trust factor and the genuineness, because I don't know about you, but the moment I feel that I'm being played, I'm done. Yeah. You know, or that I'm being used to get to someplace I'm done at that point. You're not gonna, uh, you're not gonna utilize me in that form. Right. Right. Right. So, so that genuineness is super important that trust level and building those relationships and just listening are just really how I operate and try. And it, and it took me a while because I'm not patient, I'm not a very patient person. If I want something done, it's like, I wanted it five minutes ago. Right. And, and sometimes in this process, what it has taught me has been patience, because like Speaker 1 00:55:52 You said, it could be four or five, six cycles before Speaker 2 00:55:55 You get exactly before you can actually get something tweaked and done that it's a good product that you can get pushed through. That does the same exact thing that you wanted it to accomplish from the get-go without compromising your values and what you expected the outcome to be. Speaker 1 00:56:13 Yeah, exactly. Back back to the values. Um, well, we've talked for quite some time now and have covered a lot of great topics. Was there anything else that you wanted to touch or talk about that we, we should spend some time on? Speaker 2 00:56:26 So it's just basically, well, thank you so much for this opportunity to, to have a conversation with you, Lou, and, and hopefully the insights that I've shared will, will help future leaders reflect on this conversation and, and really get into what servant leadership is all about and, and understanding the importance of what it is to listen, not be reactive and the importance of strong leadership. So Speaker 1 00:56:58 Sometimes if you stay focused on the right things, like those values and principles and conversation, you can cut through the crap. You can cut through the noise, you can cut through the nonsense and say, look, you have your interests. And I have a job to do, trying to do it this way. I've tried to do it faithfully, trying to do it with, with genuinely, with some unfair authenticity, what I think I was elected to do. So I want to work with you and see if I can, if you've got different interests and objectives, I still want to work with you to see if they can be mutually mad. If they can't, I, you can't ask me to compromise my principles and my values because that's what people elected me really. That's what people would like you to do. Speaker 2 00:57:35 And to your point, it's, it's a balancing act. It's also remembering, I always try to look at the good in people and as a politician, that is a flaw. And I won't change that flaw because I truly believe in the good implement. Speaker 1 00:57:54 Oh, to change yourself at this, for that reason. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:57:58 No people, people will come and they'll come with good intentions. Mal-intent whatever their reasons, but when they come and when they come, I should say, they're going to be treated with caring, warmth, welcoming, and we'll move forward. And to your point, we can cut through the, the foolishness and we can say, okay, this is for real, you know, this is a good intentions, um, or not. So it's, I always look at the good in people. And, and I, I can't change that because the moment I become skeptical, it's time to go because there's more, I really truly believe in the good in people. We are good people. And, and we have, we have challenges that we all face individually as families. And, and it's not that they're bad per se. Um, it's just that ish happens, right. Stuff happens. And when stuff happens, hopefully there'll be some folks there to be able to help guide, uh, those individuals in the right direction of fixing whatever ills they may be going through. Speaker 1 00:59:14 Well, one of the good things about looking for the good in people is it's a principled way to interact with people. And if is coming to you in a less than principled way, kind of respectfully get to call them out on it. But, Speaker 2 00:59:28 Um, so they call themselves out without even knowing right Speaker 1 00:59:32 There, isn't going to step up because you're being principled or like a step up to join you there, or, Speaker 2 00:59:38 And always in a kind way and always in a kind way. So that's, that's what makes it so fall into place if you will. Speaker 1 00:59:47 Hmm. I love it. Thank you very much. Thank you. Speaker 2 00:59:51 Well, I've enjoyed our time together. This has just been great. Speaker 1 00:59:55 You've been very generous with your time has been a big chunk of your afternoon. I really appreciate it. I think you had some, you shared some great thoughts that are insightful and lessons, and that's what I hope to do with the, with the, with the show is give people who are, uh, listened to it, to get some ideas of things, to try ways to look at things, things ways to think about things, and maybe they have their own aha moments. And Michelle, Speaker 2 01:00:17 I hope that, that it was helpful for your, your, uh, audience and, uh, and just know that we're here to serve. So if there's anyone out there that needs any help or whatever, feel free to look us up and give us a call or send us an email. Speaker 1 01:00:32 Excellent. Excellent. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate it. Speaker 2 01:00:35 Well, take it easy. I got to get getting ready to go to a three 30 department of education. So Merry Christmas, Lou, talk to you soon. Don't be a stranger Speaker 1 01:00:49 And that's how we see it. My friends, I want to thank Susan for recording today's episode. You can find it at, I see what you mean dot Casto stock com. Plus all the places you listen to podcasts, send questions and suggestions through your app. Subscribe and give me a five star rating unless you can't do much case. Let me know why and join me next week. When we take another look at how to get on the same page and stay there, unless you shouldn't.

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