UCF senior in first year as Florida House representative

- Like most college seniors, 21-year-old Amber Mariano balances work and studying while dreaming of her next steps in life, but instead of law school or a summer abroad, Mariano already knows she'll be busy representing her constituents. 

Mariano became the youngest person elected to the Florida House of Representatives and now speaks for the people of District 36 in west Pasco County.

Rep. Amber Mariano said she was inspired to run in the 2016 election after an internship in Tallahassee.

"I was working for Rep. Playkon and Rep. Plasencia. He was actually moving districts and he said, 'Look Amber, do you know anyone who wants to run in my seat?' and I said, 'Yeah, I do'. I feel like God placed the opportunity in my lap", Mariano said.

Before that, Mariano said she considered going to law school.

After becoming interesting in a run for office, she was going to run for the District 49 seat in Orange County, but switched to the district representing west Pasco, where she grew up.

She says her commitment to her Pasco County roots helped voters relate to her. They started to see past her age and experience.

"You would think, with the age of the population over here, they wouldn't be fond of a 21-year-old in office, but every single person I would meet would say, 'Oh wow', because I look like younger than I am. But once I would talk to them and explain my point of view, they would say, 'Oh, okay, it's okay now that I've heard you talk. I understand why you're doing this,' and I think that really sets me apart, too," Mariano explained.

Mariano also had the benefit of name recognition - and an endorsement - from her father, District 5 County Commissioner, Jack Mariano. He said he didn't fear his daughter getting involved in politics at a young age.

"I said, 'Go get it!' I wasn't surprised. I was very thrilled that she was going to start what she wants to do. I knew it was going to happen. I just didn't expect it for then," said Commissioner Mariano.

Amber is living at home with her family in Pasco. She says there have been some jokes between she and her dad about their new dynamic.

"He likes to say I'm leapfrogging him, but I think it's a great asset to this country," she said.

She says she can see herself pursuing a bigger political role in the future.

"Well, I've always said I want to be president, so hopefully there one day, but right now, I'm worried about serving west Pasco County. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, so that's what I'm focused on right now," she said. 

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