• Devyn Wong

An Interview With Juan Sabater

This week I had the opportunity to talk to Juan Sabater, one of President Biden’s political appointees who previously worked on the Biden campaign and who now works as a special assistant to the head of the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency.

To get started, I asked Mr. Sabater to tell me a little bit about himself. Both of Sabater’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and settled in Miami, Florida, where Sabater was born and raised. Up until the 2016 election, Sabater wanted to become a physical therapist. However, the 2016 election acted as a turning point because Sabater realized that he “wanted to help people in his community.” At first, he considered becoming a history or government teacher, remembering how influential they were to him in high school. But, during his junior year of college, some of Sabater’s friends “roped him into politics” during Florida’s governor election. After experiencing that campaign, Sabater switched his major and graduated from Florida International University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

After graduating, Sabater started working with the Biden campaign in Florida and told me about his experience. Sabater describes his experience as extraordinary because the pandemic forced him to approach campaigning in a new way. Instead of going door to door, he did many virtual events. With more people at home, people became exposed to a lot of information and disinformation, creating a more polarized political environment. While campaigning in Miami, Sabater learned a lot about working with different people because of the varying political opinions. Sabater enjoyed campaigning for Biden because he built his policies on good morals, and because the campaign helped him connect with all types of people in his community. While campaigning about covid, Biden told campaigners to emphasize using science to get points across, which made Sabater “feel good about advocating for Biden,” knowing he had truth beneath his words.

Once Joe Biden became the president-elect, Sabater explained his experience from moving from the campaign to working at EPA. Sabater became interested in politics mainly because of climate change and how that would affect his hometown of Miami. When he began working at the EPA, he described it as “a full circle moment” in his life because he now helps enact the policies he advocated for while campaigning. In particular, Sabater became drawn to working with water because of the Biscayne Aquifer in Miami, which, for some, serves as the only source of clean water. Although Sabater admits he did not originally expect to work in water, he now feels “like it is a second language.” After starting to work with water, Sabater realized the importance water has in every aspect of life, making a comparison to how both the Earth and humans consist of 70% of water. Although all meetings remain virtual, Sabater exceedingly enjoys getting to know people. When meeting new people, team members ask, “What’s your favorite body of water?” as an icebreaker. After only a few months on the job, Sabater describes the workplace as “very family oriented” and “wakes up grateful everyday” to get to work with them.

Of course, since Earth day is coming up, I asked Sabater ways everyone can help improve the environment. He made sure to emphasize the importance of realizing the privileges we have to turn on the lights, have clean water and have clean air in our environment. He also stressed the importance of advocating for those without these things. Especially if you can, vote for representatives that will combat climate change and help the environment. And, as always, make sure to keep in mind the little things like turning off lights, and not leaving the water running “because throughout life, the little things add up and there is no subtract button.”

I really enjoyed talking to Sabatar this week and I hope you enjoyed reading about my conversation with him!