“Right now, Congress is having a hard time making sure that that their Congressional Workforce looks like America. So we want to make sure that we have a more diverse Congressional Workforce. Part of what we do is, we put together a Staff-Up Congress Legislative Academy every year, that helps folks who currently work in Congress and are of color, an opportunity to develop their skills, so that they are considered for more senior positions on Capitol Hill. We also advocate for issues that lead to increased diversity in the Congressional Workforce, as well. We’ve led advocacy on the establishment of a House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, trying to do the same thing in the Senate.”

That’s Mario Beovides, this week’s guest on Why Public Service?, speaking about helping build diversity in Congress.

Today, Beovides is director of policy initiatives at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. Mario has held multiple positions in public service, including working for a U.S. senator, a commissioner and a school board member in Miami. He also was a field director for the LIBRE Initiative, a group advocating for the principles of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community.

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Transcript:

Kevin Kosar:

Welcome to Why Public Service, a podcast of the R Street Institute, a free market think tank in Washington, DC. I’m your host, Kevin Kosar, and each episode, I speak with an individual who made the choice to participate in governing our nation. Some of my guests have worked for the government. Others have toiled and various private sector organizations, including think tanks, philanthropies, and political groups. All of them share the same goal, however, which is to improve our country through public service.

Kevin Kosar:

Today’s guest is Mario Beovides, Director of Policy Initiatives at NALEO Educational Fund, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. Mario has held multiple positions in public service, himself, including working for a U.S. Senator, and a Commissioner, and a school board member in Miami. He also was a Field Director for the LIBRE Initiative, a group advocating for the principles of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community. You can learn more about Mario Beovides, by visiting NALEO.org. Mario, welcome to the Why Public Service podcast.

Mario Beovides:

Thank you so much for having me Kevin, happy to join you.

Kevin Kosar:

As our listeners have heard, you’ve held various positions in public service over the past 15 years. For today’s episode, I want to speak with you primarily about your work at NALEO. So my first question for you is, how did you come to work at NALEO, and what was your career path?

Mario Beovides:

Sure. Well, my career path had nothing to do with policy or politics, from the get go. I had just graduated from the University of Miami, as a film major. I wanted to be the next Stanley Kubrick. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I took a job at a local TV news station, writing for their newscast, pretty much everything that went on the teleprompter. And I was highly dissatisfied with that job, and I decided this is going to take me moving to California or New York, and I wanted to stay in South Florida. I’m from Miami, originally.

Mario Beovides:

I always knew that I was passionate about politics. So a lot of folks pointed me to get involved in politics. And I decided to volunteer with Mel Martinez, who was running as the first Cuban American, to prospectively join the United States Senate. Luckily, he won, and right off the bat, I was working in the U.S. Senate, but throughout the process, I got tons of experience doing grassroots campaigning, got exposed to a lot of great mentors and folks in the field. Florida being a battleground state, there was always a lot of high profile folks willing to take you under their wing, so that was crucial for my development and forging my career path.

Mario Beovides:

After my experience in the Senate, I had a chance to really hone in on my grassroots skills a little more. I was the Regional Director for the Republican Party of Florida for years. I had the chance work for Municipal Commissioners, for Mayors. I even worked for Carlos Curbelo, back when he was a school board member in Miami-Dade County.

Mario Beovides:

Lastly, in the grassroots world, I was given a chance to work as the Eastern Regional Grassroots Director for the LIBRE Initiative. I thought we were doing a lot of cool, innovative grassroots advocacy and approach back then. And luckily, we did a lot of good work in the East coast and I was promoted to National Grassroots Director. I had that role for a few years, really got to know about a lot of issues that were impacting, especially Hispanics, across the United States. And it led me to want to study up more on policy.

Mario Beovides:

I felt that I had gotten to a point in grassroots advocacy where I was contributing as much as I possibly could. And then I thought I need to really develop my policy chops. So as it happens to most of us in our career, we get antsy. We want to move on to something else. And I started just managing campaigns again, after my work at LIBRE, and NALEOs, they let me know, through various friends and connections, that they had a slot open in their DC office, to do a lot of impact work. A lot of it was with State Legislators. Interviewed for that. And really from then on, I’ve really gotten to see policy-wise and even governance-wise, some of the issues out there that really impact our communities and their ability to do good work for their constituents.

Mario Beovides:

And just recently, I was given the opportunity to become the Director of Policy Initiatives at the organization. I’ve been with them now for three years. And a lot of what we do really focuses on issues that impact Latinos and the full participation of them and the American political process.

Kevin Kosar:

What are your responsibilities as the Director of Policy Initiatives at NALEO?

Mario Beovides:

So mainly, I manage our Diversity and Inclusion Portfolio. Right now, Congress is having a hard time making sure that that their Congressional Workforce looks like America. So we want to make sure that we have a more diverse Congressional Workforce. Part of what we do is, we put together a Staff-Up Congress Legislative Academy every year, that helps folks who currently work in Congress and are of color, an opportunity to develop their skills, so that they are considered for more senior positions on Capitol Hill. We also advocate for issues that lead to increased diversity in the Congressional Workforce, as well. We’ve led advocacy on the establishment of a House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, trying to do the same thing in the Senate. So that’s mainly the portfolio that I handle. However, there are a couple of issues that impact Latinos, mainly Census 2020, naturalization issues and voting rights. These are all issues that I also help our Policy and Research Team lead advocacy on.

Kevin Kosar:

What does the average day look like, for the Director of Policy Initiatives at NALEO? And I’m talking, pre-COVID, since post-COVID, most of us are still in lockdown. But pre-COVID, what would, what did your day look like?

Mario Beovides:

Lots of Hill visits. We wanted to make sure that all the members and a lot of staff knew that these programs existed, like Staff of Congress. Also, worked together with a close group of allies, in different cohorts, that are committed to diversity and inclusion. So a lot of Hill visits to let folks know what’s out there, what we’re doing, and what we can do to help them. I would say that the rest of the time, when we’re not meeting with folks, a lot of it is reading and research on the latest trends in the Corporate World, when it comes to diversity, how can we implement that in Congress? It’s easier said than done, because it doesn’t easily translate to Congress. Then writing a lot of advocacy tools, to help folks. And again, not just limited to diversity, but all the other aforementioned issues. And then, some administrative tasks as well.

Mario Beovides:

But again, mainly it’s just a lot of meetings. As you know, Kevin, networking is such a big component of what we do. So just making sure that people know that we’re out there doing this work. I would say that’s the main day-to-day activities that I have.

Kevin Kosar:

After 15 years of working in both advocacy and policy, now, what lessons have you learned about governance in the United States?

Mario Beovides:

That’s a great question. I’m lucky enough to see it from both sides of the coin. Coming from the grassroots world, a lot of us are optimistic, in thinking, we’re going to get in there, and we’re going to change the system. We’re going to make sure that we take care of all these problems. From the get go, you see that the structure just doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that, and doing that and that timing. The biggest lessons I have learned is, I wish early on in my career, I knew that there were resources out there that would prepare you for this. I’m going to give you an example. NALEO, not that I want to just tout what we do, but we provide governance training to newly elected officials, mainly State Legislators, mainly folks that deal in the world of education, school board members, municipal leaders.

Mario Beovides:

Going back through my time, I worked with some folks that, quite frankly, could have used that training. And even myself, as a staffer, could have used it too. And also, one thing that I see is that a lot of electeds actually ended up sending staff to these trainings, but I think it’s imperative that both the elected and the staffer attend these trainings, to make sure that they’re caught up with the latest governance trends. When I first was working for a Municipal Official, quite honestly, it sounds odd to say, the Mayor comes and he lets you know, that there’s an opportunity to be appointed as Chair of the Commission. That sounds great. But we had no idea what that entailed. And if I had a time machine, I can go back in time, our work would have looked completely different in how we managed Commission meetings, based on my understanding of the rules now. And I think we could have accomplished a whole lot more things for our constituents.

Mario Beovides:

I also see that there are a lot of issues with oversight and accountability. Again, lots of people have great ideas, but when it comes to implementation, because of, sometimes, the lack of understanding about governance that rules that particular body, they never come to fruition, or they’re never done in the way that was initially intended. I really do think that training, beforehand, in this, will go a long way into making these issues a little better.

Kevin Kosar:

Yeah. I think that is an important lesson learned. I think it’s very easy for those of us who want to affect change in our country, or in our communities, to approach government as if it is just a delivery system for good ideas. And if we just push those good ideas into it, well, we’re going to get good policy outputs and a society is going to get better. In reality, as you’ve learned, and I’ve learned, it is much more complex than that.

Kevin Kosar:

So in your work at NALEO, you’re the Director of Policy Initiatives. What’s the toughest part of your current job?

Mario Beovides:

Well, just based on the issues that we work on, talking about Census, naturalization, diversity, as you know, Kevin, you’re not always going to be successful in moving these things along, or even seeing them come to fruition. You may see it later on, and your work had some impact, hopefully, in that issue, or that movement coming to fruition. But it’s discouraging sometimes, knowing full well, the impact that will have on American communities and on people, to see things not come to fruition. It can be discouraging. It can be heartbreaking.

Mario Beovides:

I would also say another thing is, a lot of these organizations are bipartisan or nonpartisan. So everybody, including myself, we all have our political biases. We all have our passions. We all know all the issues that we really care about. But the reality is, once you enter this sphere, you have to be open to working with everyone, if you truly want to be successful. That sometimes means you need to compromise on things that you may be passionate about, or figure out very savvy ways on making sure they’re still talked about or addressed. You want to be vocal about a lot of these issues, but sometimes you can’t. You can’t, because you want to make sure that you open a respectful and meaningful line of dialogue with all of your allies on certain issues.

Mario Beovides:

So, as you know, Kevin, today, we live in a social media world, and you see a lot of people putting their opinions out there. And sometimes, you want to do the same, because you’re human, and you’re passionate. Everyone’s watching. So you just can’t. Sometimes it’s difficult, right, to keep your mouth shut, for lack of a better term, and wait it out, and then see if there’s other ways of addressing the issues, that is not just pouring your heart out there in social media, for example. That’s one of the things I struggle with. I’m not sure about you.

Kevin Kosar:

Oh yeah. That’s a tough balance to strike. You are passionate about change, but you have to realize that change is not going to happen unless you’re able to persuade others. And persuasion is a delicate art. Simply blasting out tweets or shoving your opinion in other people’s faces, and expecting them to just convert, is not a good path, typically, to getting what you want.

Kevin Kosar:

So my closing question for you today, Mario, why public service? You’re a talented guy. You could have chosen another career path, but you didn’t.

Mario Beovides:

I’m so lucky to have come from a very supportive family. Growing up, I really didn’t have to face much hardship. I got to go to some great schools. In fact, my parents, themselves, they own private schools in South Florida. I had great teachers, a great support system growing up, and I just want to make sure people have access to the same things I had access to, when I was growing up, knowing full well that I’m in a position where I can do that, where I can be a voice for those who don’t have one, where I can leave behind a positive legacy. I think you can’t ask for anything else in life, especially if you’re given the opportunity to do it. It thrills me every day, even thinking through sometimes how hard it is, when you don’t get your way, right, that I’m just involved in something that’s much greater than myself. And I’m able, not just to advocate for issues that I’m passionate about, but issues that I know are really helping people.

Mario Beovides:

And in the meantime, again, thanks to the fact that I’ve been able to move up the ladder, I’ve been able to train folks. I’ve been able to mentor folks, as well, who are also seeking these opportunities and looking to develop their careers themselves, so they can be the most effective advocates that they can, for the issues they are passionate about. So all those things, really, is why I still, to this day, love the fact that I’m involved in public service.

Kevin Kosar:

It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work. Mario, thank you for all you do. And thank you for joining me today on the Why Public Service Podcast.

Mario Beovides:

Thanks again, Kevin, really appreciate it. And then I wish everyone out there luck, while they seek their own career path.

Kevin Kosar:

Thank you for listening to Why Public Service, a podcast of the R Street Institute. Please subscribe to the podcast, and share it with your friends. Even better, rate and review us on iTunes, so we can reach more listeners. Tell us what you thought about it, and who we should interview next, by finding us on Twitter @RSI. If you want to know more about R Street, sign up for our newsletters at www.RStreet.org.

Kevin Kosar:

I’m your host, Kevin Kosar. Thank you to producer William Gray and editor Parker Tant, from ParkerPodcasting.com.