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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Oxnard Teen Gets Insider's Look at Politics

Youth: College-bound daughter of Oxnard mayor spends her summer helping the committee staging the Democrats' convention in Los Angeles.

August 17, 2000|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's been a whirlwind summer for Tiffany Lopez.

The 18-year-old daughter of Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez has spent her three-month break between high school and college working behind the scenes for the committee staging the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Her full-time job answering phones and stuffing envelopes may not be the most high-profile work performed on behalf of the high-powered political celebration.

But when Lopez this week stepped onto the convention floor--a red, white and blue arena teeming with delegates and big-name politicians--she knew she had taken part in something special.

"Everyone worked so hard and worked together to build this great convention," said Lopez, who alongside her father has watched speakers from First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Rev. Jesse Jackson from a sky box set aside for Democratic mayors.

"Everything looked so good," she said. "I was proud of the whole party."

It was the first job for the Oxnard native, who is headed to Cal State Sacramento next week and plans to major in political science.

The youngest staff member at Democratic National Convention Committee headquarters, she spent most of her time at a downtown high-rise about a mile from the convention site.

In fact, she didn't make it to Staples Center until a few days before the convention had kicked off. She and a couple of co-workers took turns snapping each other's photos behind the same podium where she would watch President Clinton and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy from Massachusetts address the party faithful.

With her interest rooted in politics, and a goal of becoming an international ambassador, she figures this summer has given her a good start and plenty to talk about in her upcoming government classes.

"It's the beginning of my career," she said. "I feel really blessed to have this opportunity."

The opportunity opened up because of her parents, longtime Democratic stalwarts Manuel and Irma Lopez.

They were invited last spring on a walk-through of the committee's headquarters, and Tiffany Lopez tagged along. Irma Lopez asked staff members whether the committee needed summer help, thinking her older daughter, Marisa, might be able to land a job.

Instead, it was Tiffany Lopez who ended up applying and going to work two days after graduating from Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai.

Her parents have since come to visit, bringing with them a box of Oxnard strawberries for staff members to share. And as convention guests, they have been able to see their daughter every day this week, meeting at Staples as the four-day event winds to its conclusion.

"She's really had to buckle down and make it in the real world out there," said Irma Lopez, who was elected to be a Ventura County delegate but was bumped at the last minute in a procedural move that put a delegate for former presidential candidate Bill Bradley in her place.

"Can you imagine in her government classes at Sacramento State, she's going to have plenty to add to the discussion," she said. "Being here, working and meeting the players, there's no more valuable education."

Tiffany Lopez knows how lucky she is and how much her experience this summer will mean in the long run.

She is hoping it will help her land internships this year at the state Capitol. And she said she hopes it will lend insight as she joins student government at Cal State Sacramento this fall.

"In a lot of ways, this job has forced me to become an adult this summer," she said.

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