(CHINO HILLS, CALIF.) According to Brian Johsz, the mayor of Chino Hills for 2021, a memorable moment of his career was working in the U.S. House of Representatives on Independence Day when he was 21 years old.
“The firework show over the National Mall is spectacular and really a great show of patriotism with people from all across the nation and really the world there to enjoy the show,” he said in an email interview.
Johsz worked as a field representative from 2004 to 2007 under former Republican Congressman Gary Miller, who retired in 2015 after representing California’s 31st congressional district for 16 years. As part of his job, Johsz would speak at events on the congressman’s behalf.
Johsz noted that congressional district offices work on several issues that are important to the members’ constituents, including immigration and the IRS.
“It’s satisfying to assist residents with problems (regarding) the federal government,” he said.
Examples of the problems he helps them with are passport issues and immigration questions.
Johsz graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2002 with a bachelor’s in political science. In his senior year, he worked as a fellow for the California State Assembly, where he stayed until 2003. As a lead staffer, he helped move bills through the legislative process.
“My experience was fantastic,” he said. “Assembly offices don’t have large budgets for staffing, so fellows are free labor and very sought after.”
One of the bills he helped write, Assembly Bill 160, was approved in 2001 by the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. The bill, signed by Gov. Gray Davis, was written to protect victims of domestic violence who file for restraining orders.
According to Johsz, these experiences have helped him with his mayor position, which he will hold until 2021 ends. He pointed out that he is able to help residents figure out who they should be speaking to for non-city issues and what they should ask for to work out these problems.
“I don’t mind being hands-on to get something resolved,” Johsz said.
Johsz said that being the mayor, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, has been a “challenge.”
“No other time in my public service has shown that with any big decision made, there is a visceral reaction in the opposite direction,” he said. “Masks, closures, etc., all have charged up residents.”
Another challenge Johsz has faced in his current position is seeing how his family is affected by his work, specifically when it comes to hearing and seeing negative comments in-person and online.
“Elected officials have a thick skin for this,” he said. “Our spouses and kids don’t necessarily have that trait.”
The mayor advises anyone interested in state government to apply to the fellowship program options offered through California State University, Sacramento.
“You don’t need to be in politics,” he said. “What you need is a desire to know how the state of California actually operates.”
Johsz advises students to be friends with people who they do and don’t agree with. He noted that the transition from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana to UC Berkeley was a “culture shock” to him.
“I was and am politically conservative, but in college, I made lifelong friends with people that I greatly disagree with,” he said. “Disagreements and debate should never be personal. Certainly challenge each others’ beliefs and come at it from honest curiosity about its basis.”