Nearly a third of the 2015-2016 California Legislature are first-term members. In this occasional series, The Bee introduces you to Sacramento’s newest lawmakers.
If a competitive streak and an affinity for multitasking are fundamental political skills, Thousand Oaks Democrat Jacqui Irwin has been preparing for a career in politics since college.
While studying for a systems engineering degree at the University of California, San Diego, Irwin played not one but three sports: she swam competitively, played water polo and rowed. The experience showed her the value of allowing women into what had been a male-dominated arena.
“Sports and college sports have been especially great for women and advancing women,” Irwin said. “That opportunity of Title IX and what it gave to women – that’s the bigger story.”
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Watch Irwin talk about her engineering background:
While Irwin eventually set aquatic sports aside, she sustained an athletic streak – she took up biathlons as she embarked on a post-collegiate engineering career, and her leadership of a youth football league led her to public service. Her tenacity in seeking better-maintained fields caught the eye of a local city council member.
“He was so impressed with my community organizing efforts that he appointed me to the planning commission and asked me to run for city council,” Irwin said.
That’s not to say Irwin expects to carry Democrats to a long-sought victory in the legislative softball game.
“I am really terrible with a ball,” Irwin said. “If you need somebody else to play softball I don’t think, necessarily, I would be a big benefit. Now, if we’re hiking up a mountain, I would be good at that.”
Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.