He may be young, but don’t count out Georgia’s first elected gay male legislator as inexperienced.
By Matthew Holley
Since his election to represent District 101 in Gwinnett County late last year, Sam Park has hit the ground running and not let up. Despite his rookie status, the freshman legislator is fast garnering a reputation as fearless when it comes to reaching across the aisle to build bridges and stop anti-LGBT legislation.
Yearning to lessen the political and cultural divide, Park’s heart is solely invested in the home state he loves. It makes the 31-year-old a natural fit to be named our Man About Town, and while working feverishly on the Jon Ossoff campaign, the state’s first elected openly gay male representative took the time to let Goliath Atlanta in on a day in the life of Sam Park.
It was surreal. After working tirelessly for months with my team, it was amazing to make history and win when no one thought it was possible. It was also bittersweet because of the unexpected result in the Presidential election.
Unseating a three-term Republican incumbent during the tumultuous 2016 political season made many see my race as a silver lining. It was an extremely humbling experience to receive messages and thanks from across the nation; to give hope of the progress we continue to make.
What are your first priorities at the Capitol?
My legislative priorities are the same as the issues I ran; to foster economic growth, ensure all Georgians have access to healthcare, strengthen our public education system, and fight so that all Georgians are treated with equal dignity and respect under the law.
What has serving your first session been like?
Interesting. I was happy to find common ground with my Republican colleagues on many issues. Yet, it was frustrating to constantly lose on party-line votes. Democrats are outnumbered 118 to 62 in the Georgia House. I left the 2017 legislative session with a belly full of fire and renewed vigor to fight for change in our state.
What is a day like in the life of Sam Park?
My days are 12 to 15 hours long. I wake up around 6am, go for a jog, and head to the Georgia State Capitol by 8 a.m. for Democratic Caucus Meetings. The legislative session usually begins at 10 a.m., where I head to the House Floor to debate and vote on legislation. Afterwards, I attend any committee hearings where we’ll take a deeper dive into proposed legislation. Generally, I finish around 5 p.m., and then head to constituent meetings, town halls, or a political event in the evening.
Do you have any plans to further pursue politics at a higher level?
Not unless I can demonstrate that I can be a successful voice for my community as a state representative. As a native Georgian, I ran to change the direction of our legislature on a range of issues, from healthcare to the equal rights of our LGBTQ family. The work that needs to be done in Georgia will take time, and I am committed to seeing it through.
Outside of politics what do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy the outdoors whether it’s hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains or getting some sun at the beach. It’s always refreshing to catch up with old friends who keep me grounded, and making new ones. And I enjoy sleeping in.
What do you love about Atlanta?
Atlanta is home. I love the growing diversity and vibrancy of our communities. From Midtown to East Atlanta, there’s always something to do or see from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to Piedmont Park. Representing a portion of Gwinnett County, the most diverse in the Southeast, I love how you can eat all different kinds of authentic cuisines from all over the world within a 15-minute drive.