"I assumed, in my world, lawyers were good," Andersen said. "When I got to college, I realized the rest of the world didn't appreciate lawyers the way I did."
She returned to her birthplace in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors last week to improve transportation, communication and housing issues in the San Ramon Valley. Andersen noted her father clerked for the tax court of appeals in Washington and she reveled being back.
"I enjoyed (the experience) very much," she said. "It was wonderful to see so many people seeing something done."
"It's nice to sit face-to-face with our U.S. congressmen and senators and their staff," she added.
She arrived in Washington at 11:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 21, and immediately went to work with the other Tri-Valley mayors, devising a unified plan of what the Valley wanted to ask from their legislators. The Town of Danville reimbursed her traveling expenses.
They met with California Democrats U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D, 11th District) and U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D, 10th District). The mayors asked for federal aid to create interoperable emergency radios in the San Ramon region, alleviate traffic in the I-580 corridor and finance a foreclosure prevention program for troubled homeowners.
"We had selected and identified projects that were timely," Andersen said.
The mayors speaking as one region as opposed to individual cities had a greater impact on the lawmakers, she said.
"The bottom line, it was a united voice," Andersen said. "It was appealing to the legislators. The five cities spoke in a unified voice. This is something that the entire region can benefit from."
She said there is a multitude of competing interests in Washington.
"I see it's the way things get done at this point," she said. "It's subtle. Lobbyists play a large role."
Nonetheless, the mayors were able to reach out.
Boxer was warm, friendly and willing to help out anyway she could; however, she was a realist about the economy and said it was unlikely the Valley would get the money it needed, said Andersen. Feinstein had less time to spend with the mayors, but her staff worked with them.
"She was in a little bit of a hurry," she said.
Tauscher, like Boxer, was warm, friendly and down-to-earth, Andersen said.
"She was excited to see us," she said. "She was well-informed with the issues. She probably spent the most time with us. She understood the issues. She studied and knew exactly what she was talking about."
Andersen said McNerney was informal and she appreciates his accessibility.
"He's home most weekends," she said.
Andersen said she had much respect for Washington.
"To me, there was a sense of history and a sense of awe," she said. "You're part of making history."
History and politics appear to run deep in Andersen's past. Presidential candidate Barack Obama graduated a class behind Andersen at Punahou High School in Hawaii. Her uncle was a federal judge, and her brother-in-law Collin Beecroft attends the same church as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Boston - and he was in the same class with Obama at Harvard Law School.
Andersen said if she were voting as a Democrat she would vote for Obama because she likes his vision for the future and his distance from the political game and structure. If she were voting Republican, she would vote for Romney for his intelligence and business background.
She returned Friday to Danville.
"The benefit of the conference was developing camaraderie with other mayors and the ability to talk about issues," Andersen said. "The friendships with other mayors will continue for a long time."