February 2010: The center of the network

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Kristin Szakos is a soft-spoken person, but she’s found a strong voice in local politics. In 2008 she was a local coordinator for the Obama campaign; in 2009, she became a candidate herself and captured a seat on City Council. If you imagined that both races involved a lot of e-mailing, phone calls and organizational skills in general, you’d be right. So does being a councilor, a title she’s held for just a few weeks. And most of that work takes place right here, on this couch.

Because her other gig is as a freelance editor of translations, Szakos’ work is home-based and her schedule is flexible. In the Locust Grove home where she and her husband Joe have lived for 16 years, and where their two daughters (Anna, 20, and Maria, 18) did most of their growing up, she stakes out a quiet workspace in front of the big bay window in the living room. The morning sun hits her shoulders (the reading lamp behind the couch isn’t even plugged in) and her dog Jacob stays nearby. “He’s often draped across me,” she says.

Other essential equipment? “The phone’s in my pocket. I just inherited a Bose radio, which is great. I love listening to Radio IQ. And coffee is the main thing.”

“I edit translations for an international translation agency. It’s very interesting work. We’ll get a government document from Canada, a master’s dissertation on black history, a poem…It keeps it fresh. Most of what I work on comes from French.

“It’s not an unusual day that I get 70-100 e-mails. Most of them are real. I don’t get as many phone calls as I thought, but I think I’ll get more once people start realizing I’m on Council. My personal work style is that if people e-mail me I have it in front of me what they said, and I can refer to it, so I almost prefer that. But it’s not as personal, so that’s the disadvantage. I like talking to people face to face. The nice thing about this flexible work schedule is I can make a date with someone to get a cup of coffee and hear about their concerns.

“During the [City Council] campaign, we had our team meetings here, and I baked cookies. I had all the clipboards and stuff in the dining room, and the button-making machine. That was the war room. This was a little more protected. I bought a lateral file folder to keep track of everything. I’m still working on my system for all that [Council-related] stuff.

“I’ve got the family pictures to look down [from the opposite wall]. There are pictures of my grandmother’s parents all the way down to my kids. The lava lamp is a new addition, and this furniture is new to us. My mother died four days before Christmas, and we inherited this couch from her. My younger daughter thought it was more modern than our old couch, so she brought the lava lamp down.

“[How I work] depends on the weather. In warmer weather, I’ll set up camp in a coffeeshop downtown. When it’s cold that’s less exciting.

“I love working at home. I love the freedom to walk the dog in the middle of the day, have people come here and meet with me, eat decent food. When I was younger I didn’t have the discipline to do it. In Eastern Kentucky [where she lived when her children were quite small] we lived in a house up a holler. My husband traveled a lot then. I found [working at home] incredibly isolated and lonely. Now I have networks of people, so I don’t feel isolated.”

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