If ever there was a politician who got into the game for the right reasons, Lucy Flores appears to be it. The 32-year-old state assemblywoman from northeastern Las Vegas grew up in the very district she represents—save for a nine-month stint in juvenile hall when she was 13. It was part of a rough adolescence that included numerous run-ins with the law which eventually led to her dropping out of high school. But with the help of several mentors—including her parole officer—Flores flipped life on its head. She got her GED in her early 20s, then attended community college and earned degrees from the University of Southern California and UNLV’s law school.
In 2010, Flores decided to run for state office in her predominately Hispanic District 28 for a simple reason: “So many people assisted me in getting me where I am that I feel like it really is an obligation for me to do the same for others.” Running as a Democrat, Flores easily won election, becoming among the first Hispanic women ever to serve in the Nevada Assembly. It’s one of the reasons Vegas Seven included Flores—who pulls double duty as an attorney for a local law firm—in last year’s “Intriguing People” issue. And an intriguing year it was.
How was your first year as a legislator? Was it all you thought it would be?
It was a very eye-opening experience in terms of how quickly things happen, which is not very quickly at all. New legislators are very gung ho, very energetic and think they’re going to fix the world overnight. And then you find out that you’re actually not. You start to understand that [government] is a ship, an enormous ship. And you don’t turn a ship around [quickly]. It takes time; it takes a lot of different parts to get that ship to change direction. That’s where Nevada is right now. We’re very slowly trying to move it into a different direction, because obviously the way that it’s been going is not working out for us.
What were the three most important things you learned in Carson City?
First is cooperation and really developing relationships with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Ultimately, as is evidenced right now in Congress, you can’t get anything done unless you work with everyone. And [understanding] that usually you have the same goal in mind; it’s just that you’re trying to get there in different ways. Second is just constantly being open to learning. Those who think that their idea—and only their idea— is the right idea don’t get very far. And then third, I would say I learned a lot about patience, not just because things need to occur slowly because of how massive the system is, but also because a lot of the times you move through things quickly and don’t think about the unintended consequences or potentially something not being completely thought through. I’ve learned sometimes it is better to wait on some things.
What’s the one accomplishment from your first session that you’re most proud of?
Helping to build the Nevada Hispanic Legislative caucus. We went from two Hispanic legislators to eight over the course of one cycle. I and three other women were the first Hispanic females to serve in the Nevada Legislature, and it was just a great sense of accomplishment to know you were able to be a voice for a community that has traditionally not been very well represented. We formalized ourselves quickly and very much became a cohesive group. And in a time where there was a growing anti-immigrant sentiment—you had states around the West that were passing these very, very awful bills that did some terrible things to this particular community—we were actually one of the few states that was able to stop all of those bills.
Assuming you get re-elected in November, what will be at the top of your priority list when you return to Carson City a year from now?
There are just so many things that need to be addressed and fixed, but at the foundation is improving our educational system. It has to be No. 1. And then second is making us financially sound and finally fixing our tax structure and putting us in a better place to finally reach this elusive diversified economy that everyone keeps talking about. … Until we are able to equally distribute the burden—well, I wouldn’t call it a burden, but the responsibility—of maintaining a well-funded state that’s able to provide good education to our kids and services when people need them, we’re going to continue struggling.
What advice would 32-year-old Lucy Flores give to 13-year-old Lucy Flores?
Besides stop breaking the law? [Laughs] I guess I would say the world isn’t limited by what you know at the time. I look back on those days, and the world was just so small. I didn’t know that I had options and that there was opportunity outside of just working the rest of your life, because that’s what I grew up knowing. You have to believe that the things you learn and read about are real and that there absolutely are opportunities for you, and that the challenges at the time are temporary. They’re only permanent if you allow them to become permanent.
Now that you’re on the other side of the law, if you could overturn any law on the books, what would it be?
Speed limits—I’ve had my fair share of speeding tickets!
What’s your favorite television show about the law?
I don’t watch them, because they are not accurate. They’re not. They actually make our jobs harder. I’m more into medical dramas—I really like Grey’s Anatomy. Secretly I think I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. And I’m sure that Grey’s Anatomy is not like the actual practice of medicine, either!