Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez’ mission is to make sure EMTs are fairly compensated and their mental and physical health is a top priority of employers.
We interviewed EMT and California State Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez. For more than 31 years, Rodriguez has worked as an EMT in San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. He was awarded the California Star of Life award for his outstanding community volunteer contributions and lifesaving rescues. In 2005, he journeyed to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to help the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2013, Rodriguez was elected to the California State Assembly and, the following year, he was named EMT of the Year by the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.
Q: How did your career in EMS impact your decision to enter politics?
A: I dedicated 30-plus years to helping people in need as an EMT. I felt I could do that on a larger scale in the State Assembly. Every day I bring my EMS experiences to the job and, so far, it has worked really well.
Q: What are some current issues in EMS that impact your political decisions?
A: Currently, the well-being and safety of private ambulance employees is what is concerning. It’s my mission to not only make sure our EMTs are being fairly compensated, but their mental and physical health is a top priority of employers. We have to make sure these folks have the resources they need to successfully do their jobs, and do them safely. That is a top priority.
Q: What are some of your political goals that relate to EMS?
A: I have already introduced two pieces of legislation for 2019 that take aim at ensuring our EMS personnel are safer when responding to situations where physical harm is a possibility, and legislation to help EMTs get mental health treatment after a difficult incident. Stay tuned; there will be more on my agenda.
Q: What do you find rewarding about politics?
A: The fact that my community put their trust in me to represent them is rewarding in itself. I never planned on being in politics, but a neglected park in my lifelong neighborhood led me to being lucky enough to represent several great communities. We have been able to deliver some great results to improve the health of residents and to bring new opportunities to the community.
Q: What are some of the similarities and differences in your role as EMS professional versus your role as a politician?
A: One of the differences is the type of pressure. We never knew when a call was going to be placed or whose life we would be saving that day. With being an EMT comes quick thinking or someone could lose his or her life. I always had to be 100 percent sure on my decisions because people—who didn’t know me—put their lives in my hands. This is also a similarity; people who only know me because of what they see on the news or read in the paper trust me to make life-altering decisions. What I say or do, or don’t say or don’t do, can affect more people than we can imagine. Regardless, I have chosen careers where I can be there for people when they need it.
Q: The 2019 theme for EMS Week is EMS Strong: Beyond the Call. What does this mean to you?
A: To me, this means that as EMS personnel we are always willing and able to go above and beyond the call of duty. Whether we are in uniform or not, we are there to make sure our communities are safe. Going into this field, we know we have a responsibility to help everyone. We accept that responsibility and do it with courage.
Q: Would you encourage your colleagues in EMS to get involved in politics, and what do you think is the best way to get started?
A: EMS professionals’ experiences can impact politics more than they know because they are the ones working the front lines, day in and day out. I got started in politics by voicing my opinion about an issue that affected my family and neighbors. I attended council meetings and did my research, which is what I recommend to my colleagues in EMS. If there are issues you are facing, speak up and don’t let anyone get in your way of solving it.
Q: How can EMS professionals have a voice in local, state and national politics?
A: They already have a voice, but we need to keep building it. Many of my current colleagues are former EMS personnel and every day we are making decisions to make the lives of EMS professionals a little easier. The more perspectives we can bring to the conversation, the better the resulting policy can be.