NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley is talking with some of the lawmakers who have been newly elected to the New Hampshire Legislature. Maria Perez, a Democrat, will represent Milford in the state House of Representatives.
Rick Ganley: So you emigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. 32 years ago, and you've been living in Milford for about 18 years now?
Maria Perez: Yeah, it's going to be close to 20 years.
Rick Ganley: But what brought you to New Hampshire?
Maria Perez: To be honest, when I moved here, my ex-husband brought me here. He was working in the textile industry and he was living in New Hampshire. So that's why I moved to New Hampshire.
Rick Ganley: And what made you decide to stay?
Maria Perez: New Hampshire is a beautiful place. And then if you want your kids to have a good education, and a quiet life and quality life, New Hampshire to me is one of the best places, you know. That's why I decided to stay in New Hampshire.
Rick Ganley: Yeah. And what about Milford specifically? What is it about Milford that attracted you?
Maria Perez: I love the nature. I love being in a quiet place. I love and enjoy a place that I can, like, have a quiet neighborhood and then Milford has that in the quality of life. I love having my vegetable gardens. In Nashua, you know, I felt like that the houses are too close to each other and I needed to feel like I have more space and like enjoy the life. So I love Milford.
Rick Ganley: So when did you first get involved in politics? How did you get involved in politics?
Maria Perez: In 2007, I got my citizenship. And then in 2008, one of the field organizers for the Obama campaign reach out to me and she asked me if she can stay in my house. And then I said, sure, why not? And then she introduced me to the political life. And then I started getting involved and I started volunteering. And my husband and myself welcome a lot of people from different campaigns to our house. And then I felt like, you know, this year I was like, okay, I've been so involved, like helping others running campaigns and being involved with the political life. But if I want to make the difference and I want to help my community, why not run for a state [representative]?
Rick Ganley: So what was that decision like in that moment when you said, you know what, maybe I should be a candidate here?
Maria Perez: Oh, at the beginning it was very scary, to be honest. I was like, okay, we don't have a lot of Latinos in here, and being an immigrant, a Latina, a woman, it was kind of scary. At the beginning, it was one of those things like should I do it, not do it? But I'm so grateful, you know, with the people in my community. And I realized that the necessities and the struggles my community was going through during the pandemic, and that made me feel like, okay, maybe I can do more. You know, if I run for office, I can have a little more voice from my community and then maybe I can help more. But it was kind of scary at the beginning.
Rick Ganley: So what are you most looking forward to next year when you enter the first legislative session?
Maria Perez: I see the struggles in our communities with mental health, mental illness. And one of the biggest things that I'm like looking for is to be able to work and then bring more awareness of, you know, with a pandemic, how hard it's been for a lot of people who have mental illness and who struggle with, like staying home, and bring that help to like teachers. Teachers and parents, they're struggling right now with a pandemic. I want to help teachers and the parents with education and make sure that they have all the tools necessary, because I feel like we can do more to bring internet and computers to parents who don't have a computer to be able to help the kids with homework and stuff. So, yeah, those are the things that I'm looking for.