Rep. Amber Mariano:
Youngest Person Elected to the FL State House
I met Amber Mariano at the UCF 30 Under 30 award ceremony, she graduated in 2017. Representative Mariano is the youngest ever person to be elected to the Florida House of Representatives, elected at just 21 years old. A Republican, she serves FL-HD 36 (Pasco County, including Port Richey) and sits on the Education and Post-Secondary Education committees, to name a few.
She is running for re-election this year.
Why did you first decide to run for elected office?
I always wanted to run for office, I wanted to be president since age 6. Seeing mostly men in power, I didn’t know it was really an option until I saw Sarah Palin as McCain’s VP. I wanted to run after that. My dad has been a county commissioner most of my life, so I was already around politics. He helped me see the good in politics, to see the good in being a politician, and watching him do the right thing made it seem noble.
How did your family and community support you on your journey?
I couldn’t have done it without my family. From day one, they were so supportive. When I wanted to move home and run from home, my dad was running too. It was a big decision for both of us and we wanted to make sure that we were both in a good position. The minute I asked my dad, he encouraged me to go for it, even if it impacted his race. I didn’t have a lot a support outside my family. I was turned down by a lot of people that I thought would support me. My family’s support was so crucial.
I read you initially wanted to go to Harvard- how did you cope with the rejection?
It was so tough. I talk about how the rejection felt like the world ending. I am lucky that things turned around really fast. In two years, I was rejected, went to UCF; which I didn’t want to go to at first. I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there….but really it was leading me to this, my real dream. Going to Harvard was supposed to help me run for office, but here I am. If I got into Harvard, who knows if I would’ve been elected…ever? I definitely wouldn’t be in office now. God has a plan, and sometimes you have to just stick with it to see how it turns out.
What was your secret to balancing running for office and a full-time college course load?
I don’t even know! I feel like I am missing those memories. It was really tough. I was taking 12 hours of in-person classes in the Honors colleges. I was driving home to campaign on weekends. I put a lot of miles of my car and listening to Taylor Swift. It wasn’t truly that bad, I felt like it’d be worth it if I won. I didn’t think I’d win, people were telling me I wouldn’t win, so I was trying to keep my grades up at UCF too. I finished with a 3.8 that term.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have listened to people saying I wouldn’t win, but it was hard at the time.
Do you think you will remain in politics?
I will remain in office as long as I continue to be elected. When people don’t elect me anymore, I will go home. You have an expiration date every two years in this position.
If two years from now, or ten years from now, you are no longer elected, what else would you pursue?
I always wanted to go to law school. I would probably do that. If I had a family, I am not sure. I’d like to work at a university and help students get through college and find their passions too.
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to run for office?
Never let anyone tell you no. And if they do, keep asking until they say yes. That’s how I’ve gotten a couple bills passed. I keep coming to their offices and calling until they agree to help. Persistence pays off.