As the chief of staff for California Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, Stuart Waldman oversees day-to-day operations for the five-person staff at the 40th District’s Van Nuys office.
Considering it is also the same job he previously held for former Assemblymember Bob Hertzberg, also of the 40th District, Waldman, a CSUN alumnus, said it is only a matter of time before he himself takes a run at public office.
“I think with term limits, it’s likely to happen when my boss gets termed out in 2008,” Waldman said.
Waldman, a lifelong San Fernando Valley resident, initially planned on running for the 40th District Assembly seat after his boss and former Assemblymember Hertzberg was termed out of office in 2002. Technically speaking, Waldman said he had run against current Assemblymember Levine for four months before becoming his chief of staff in 2002.
Waldman, 36, said a typical day for him involves breakfast and luncheons with various non-profit organizations, homeowner associations and business leaders in the community. He said his service in the U.S. Army prepared him for his 60 to 70 hour workweek.
“It’s all about networking, helping people and getting their input,” he said.
The 40th District is bordered by West Hills to the west and Van Nuys to the east, as well as parts of Northridge and Reseda.
Levine said Waldman’s involvement with commendable causes and organizations in the Valley was what first brought Waldman to his attention.
“Nobody knows politics in the Valley better than Stuart Waldman,” Levine said. “I thought I might as well try to get the best. It just made good sense.”
Whether it involves scheduling meetings with various constituents or flying to the Capitol in Sacramento for the day, Levine said Waldman knows how to service the needs of the Valley.
“He knows everyone because he is everywhere,” Levine said. “When I can’t be there, Stuart goes in my place.”
Crystal Strait, communications director for Levine, said Waldman’s struggles and achievements in the past have demonstrated his resolve.
“Waldman’s story is the typical American story: to persevere through hard times,” she said.
Strait said everyone in Levine’s Capitol office is familiar with Waldman’s past. She said knowing that Waldman dropped out of high school, only to return and graduate on time before enlisting in the armed forces, underscores his strong civic desire to help the public.
“He put himself through Loyola (University) Law School while working full time and passed the Bar exam,” Strait said. “He has grown up in the Valley all his life. Valley residents are benefiting from having Waldman in that position.”
Waldman said it was in 1991 when he was at Los Angeles Valley College that he fell in love with politics. Fed up with then-Governor Pete Wilson and President George H.W. Bush, Waldman said he started campaigning for then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton because he felt the country could use a change in leadership.
Waldman said his struggles in the past are what shaped him and his work ethic. He said he originally dropped out of high school to pursue a career in music, but is happy where he and his wife are today.
“I don’t have a yacht, but I’m making a living,” he said.
Waldman said that while people have a misconception about legislators being corrupt, surveys reveal communities think highly of their representatives.
“We can’t make everyone happy,” Waldman said. “But, the fact is, we’re representing a heavily Democratic district.”
For that reason Waldman said he supports euthanasia, raising the minimum wage, and is vocal about his disappointment with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance.
“I think the special election is a waste of money. The measures could have been put on the June ballot,” Waldman said. “The governor likes to say he represents the people, but what he represents is the rich, white, Republican Party.”
Closer to home, Waldman also offers his take on emerging and existing Valley concerns, such as the recent drive for secession.
“I was opposed to Valley secession,” he said. “I feel separating from the system wouldn’t fix the problem. I feel more can be done from inside the system than outside.”
Julio Morales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.