Inside the Office of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.): Jenny Wood
Title: Legislative and special assistant
Hometown: Temecula, Calif.
Education: B.A. in international development and sociology, UCLA
Last job: District director, Office of California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
Legislative specialty: My focus right now is on child welfare, specifically policy related to foster youth.
Favorite bill or law: Having dressed up as an injured “public option” for Halloween during the healthcare debate, I’d have to say the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, I am a supporter of single-payer healthcare, but ACA is a giant leap in the right direction. It represents tremendous progress and provides significant, tangible benefits.
If you could create a new committee or subcommittee, what would it be? Rep. Bass just launched the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth along with Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). I’m pretty excited about it. The caucus will be hitting the road in 2012 — traveling the country to hear from youth, caregivers and child-welfare advocates as part of a listening tour.
Most embarrassing moment on Capitol Hill: I was doing the plyometrics video of the workout program P90X on one of the mats at the House gym. The video was playing on my netbook, which was balancing unsteadily on the front of an elliptical machine. I got to the point in the workout where I had to pretend-pitch with my left hand. I can barely pitch with my right hand, so this was definitely awkward. Of course, I got a bit out of control, my hand crashed into my netbook, flinging my machine onto the ground and creating quite a loud noise. I’m certain that everyone in the gym was staring at me.
Interests outside of work: Swimming, hiking, yoga. I’m an aspiring triathlon competitor.
Jenny Wood honed her activism skills as an undergrad at UCLA, participating in tent cities and organizing protests to ensure that the University of California system remained accessible to students from working-class backgrounds and minority communities.
Through her work she met Karen Bass (D), a kindred spirit in community organizing who had recently won a seat in the California State Assembly. The two have worked together ever since, with Wood’s experience expanding as Bass took on increasingly prominent roles, from Assembly Speaker to representative of California’s 33rd congressional district. Wood now serves as Bass’s legislative and special assistant.
Wood is drawn to human-services issues, and she continues to define herself as an activist more than a congressional staffer.
“If I’m an advocate working at a nonprofit, or if I’m a government employee, I’ll still be trying to do the same work, just a different role,” she says. “I just think that there’s drastic inequality in our world, and I think that providing a safety net is something that our country’s been fortunate enough to be able to do for so long. … We need to ensure we have not only a middle class but that we also have a safety net.”
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