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Marin County director for California Assemblymember Levine wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award

Melissa Apuya

35

District Director

Office of State Assembly Member Marc Levine

3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 412, San Rafael, 94903

415-479-4920

www.assembly.ca.gov/levine

Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

Responsibilities with your company: As district director, I manage the Assembly member’s district offices in Marin and Sonoma counties.

I represent the assembly member in meetings, events, and functions with constituents and community groups. I work with staff to plan district events and town halls, as well as outreach and educational opportunities to discuss legislation.

I also work closely with elected officials, community leaders and businesses.

In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?

I've worked in public service for over 13 years and I am still passionate and committed to serve my community.

Years with company: 5

Length of time in current position: 5

No. companywide employees: 10

Number who report to you: 4

Greatest professional accomplishment: A former intern once told me that she was so inspired and appreciative to have me, a young woman of color, as a mentor.

She had never worked with a female or person of color as a supervisor and so was encouraged to see someone like her in that position, especially in an industry that is historically male-dominated.

She hoped that one day she too can inspire and mentor young students like I was to her. For those six months that we worked together, I was just doing my job, but to her, I was an inspiration of hope. I hadn't realized that I had that effect on others but what she shared helped me become a better and more thoughtful colleague, mentor, and leader.

Greatest professional challenge: Having to adjust and adapt to the pandemic overnight was definitely one of them. Trying to find a work-home-self balance under one roof was particularly challenging.

Best advice received: You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Balancing remote work at home and raising a two-year old at the same time. In a perfectly imperfect way, I did well for myself.

What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?

It was difficult at the beginning to concentrate on work without the distraction of things that needed to be done at home.

For me, the biggest change was finally acknowledging the facts that I couldn't do everything, I didn't need to do everything, and that I certainly couldn't do it alone.

Also telling myself that it was okay to lean on others more often than I normally would have was a change, in a good way.

And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from that experience?

It goes back to finding that balance. It took time and patience but I managed to make it through the last 12 months with a healthy family at home and a stronger team in the (virtual) office.

What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?

My colleagues and I share a call to public service and our commitment to serve is what keeps us going. Regular communications sent to constituents remind them that while our doors are physically closed, our virtual office remains open to assist North Bay residents.

This is especially important at a time when many of those we help feel like they have no other place to turn to.

Next professional goal: Get more women and people of color to leadership positions in government.

Education: University of San Francisco, Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies

Hometown: Dededo, Guam

Community/nonprofit activities: I serve on the Maternal, Child, Adolescent Health Advisory Board for Sonoma County; board member for AIM, the Agricultural Institute of Marin; and youth mentor for the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project

Mentor/admired businessperson: My mom. She managed to build her small business from the ground up in her 30s, all while raising three young kids, and being actively involved in our school PTA.

What is your most disliked industry buzzword?

More of a phrase, “This is the way it's always done.”

Typical day at the office: The work can vary on any given day. The assembly district stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to central Santa Rosa, and the Marin Coast up to Dillon Beach and east to the city of Sonoma so there's lots of area to cover.

One day, I can be driving across the district to attend a number of community events and meetings, and another day, I'll be in the office sending out emails and making phone calls in between office visits from constituents.

In a business sense, what is the greatest thing about being under 40; and then what is the worst?

Being under 40, I'm proving that you don't need decades of training and experience to be successful in your field, just as others in this network have already shown.

The downside is my expertise gets discredited because I'm young, and people would instead want to “speak to the person in charge.” Well guess what, you're already speaking to her.

Best place to work outside of your office: I like places that have good coffee and seats that provide a view for people watching. But the great thing about living in the North Bay is that any outdoor space you find will be a beautiful place to work from.

Hobbies: Hiking, reading, doing crossword puzzles, cooking and baking. Thanks to the pandemic, I've been able to try new recipes and actually make dishes from my collection of cookbooks.

What you wanted to be when you grew up: A chef

#1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: Own a home

First job: Worked for Cold Stone Creamery when it first opened in Guam

Social media you most use: Instagram

Favorite book: I have so many favorites but one that I read recently and loved is “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle.

Favorite movie: “Moana” because representation matters!

Favorite App: NYT Crossword

Favorite after-work drink: A glass of pinot noir

Last vacation: Family road trip to San Diego

What does your mom or dad brag most about you?

My dad used to talk a lot about the work I do for the State of California, but these days he just talks about my son, his first grandchild."

Melissa Apuya

35

District Director

Office of State Assembly Member Marc Levine

3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 412, San Rafael, 94903

415-479-4920

www.assembly.ca.gov/levine

Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

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