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Personnel Profile: Shannan Velayas

NAME: Shannan Velayas
JOB TITLE: Press secretary for Assemblyman Mark Leno

Shannan Velayas is press secretary for Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San
Francisco. She has also been one of the most-searched names in Capitol
Weekly’s online searchable salary database since it was launched several
weeks ago. Currently she ranks third, with over 33,000 searches.

Capitol Weekly: So your name has been near the top of the salary search list
for weeks, right behind some better-known characters like Irwin Nowick. What
gives?
Shannan Velayas: I have no idea. I’m pretty sure 33,000 people have not
clicked on my name or care what I make. If I was one of the people making
the big bucks I wouldn’t mind.

CW: Do you think someone has been gaming the system?
SV: I’m pretty sure of it. I’ll buy a drink for anyone who tells me what’s
going on.

CW: Tell us about your career in government.
SV: I started off doing voter registration for the Democratic Party during
the 1998 elections. Before that I did student government in the California
Student Association of Community Colleges. Then I went to work for Gray
Davis as a press aide, then for speaker Hertzberg. And I’ve been working for
Mark since the beginning [2002].

CW: What was it like being Leno’s press secretary during the gay marriage
debate?
SV: It’s been heartwarming. It’s something I will tell my kids and my
grandkids about. There have been so many people that I’ve met. I remember
when it first went before the Judiciary Committee, there was this [male]
couple with this adorable little baby. Just seeing them together, you know
why you’re doing it. You’re there for those kids. I gives what I do a
purpose.

I think it’s very different for young people when it comes to marriage or
gay rights in general. I think for more and more young people, it just seems
so counter intuitive to say that you are for families in one breath, and in
the other, deny the right to form a family to an entire group of people
simply because of their sexual preference. When I first told one of my
closest friends, Frank, that my boss was going to do a bill on marriage
equality, he got tears in his eyes. As you can imagine, working on something
that is so personal for your friends and has such an enormous impact on
their lives is pretty incredible. Even if they don’t want to get married, we
all want that right just like everyone else.

CW: Any negative reactions or phone calls?
SV: Working in Mark Leno’s office, you get a lot of those calls from folks,
a lot of negative reaction. The good that we do outweighs it. The staff, we
just kind of joke about it. If you get a crazy caller, we like to share. But
they don’t really stick in my mind. You just let if fall by the wayside.

CW: What do you do when you’re not working?
SV: I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’ve skydived, I hang glide. I’ve also
traveled all over Europe, studied in Spain. I’ve been to Alaska, many of the
lower 48 states, Canada, Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Turkey.

I recently went to Brazil. My brother makes movies there. He recently worked
on a low-budget action movie called “Living in Traffic,” or “Vida em
Traffico” in Portuguese. It’s about assassins. He wrote the screenplay and
produced it. He is working on his second film right now.


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