Anthony Rendon is reading the complete works of William Shakespeare – all of the English writer’s plays and all of his sonnets by the end of the year.
“It involves reading 3.4 pages per day and I’m on pace to do that,” the recently elected Speaker of the State Assembly said. “3.4 pages is something anybody can do.”
Making large projects, like his Shakespeare goal, easier to handle is part of Assembly Speaker Rendon’s job in the Legislature. He leads not only the Democratic Caucus, but in his position Speaker Rendon can make or break a piece of legislation.
Rendon showed his ability to broker deals on large state policy issues back in 2014, when he chaired the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and led negotiations on the state's $7 billion-plus water bond.
Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, was sworn in as the 70th Speaker of the California Assembly on March 7th. Now in his second term, Rendon was elected to the state Assembly in 2012. If he wins his reelections, Rendon could hold the speaker position through 2024, longer than anyone has in about 20 years.
His path to this position was not one you might expect.
“I think I just grew up in a community where education wasn’t valued very much,” Rendon said.
Brought up in a lower-middle class family in Los Angeles County, as a high school student Rendon had a .83 grade point average and didn’t have plans for college. “Other than my older sister, I didn’t know anybody that ever went to college, I didn’t know what it was about.”
After high school, Rendon spent two years working graveyard shifts unloading boxes from factory trucks and warehouses in northern Orange County.
Then one morning, as he road the bus home from work, his perspective changed.
“It was like 9 a.m. The bus would stop in front of the community college and I would see all the kids getting out,” Rendon said. “They were fresh and looking good, getting ready to kind of tackle the day, and I was exhausted.”
After that, at age 20, Rendon enrolled at Cerritos Community College. He went on to earn his Bachelors and Masters of Arts Degrees from California State University, Fullerton and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.
Rendon said after his graduation from UC Riverside, he wanted to go back and serve the community that raised him. He joined a non-profit organization that provided a range of community services.
“We did gang reduction programs, we did early childhood education, we did food banks and senior programs,” but Rendon said it was the early childhood education that made the most significant impact on the community.
It's the issue of early childhood education that Rendon has made a focus in his role as Assembly Speaker.
“We ripped out over a billion dollars in early childhood education funding (during the recession) – we’ve only reinvested about a quarter of that,” he said
The speaker said he's also focused on ensuring that his legislative house runs smoothly. "What's important is that I make sure that the various committee chairs are functioning in their roles and in a manner that they want to," he said.
Rendon's not personally carrying any pieces of legislation this year. Instead, he wants to ensure whatever does pass from the Assembly becomes an effective law.
"Obviously in Sacramento, we pass a lot of bills and they go off to be implemented by a bureaucracy," Rendon said. "We need to make sure that those bills are being implemented effectively."
Only time will tell if Rendon's strategies will be effective. As the Bard said, "We know what we are, but know not what we may be."
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