Why the Intersection of Being Asian American and a Public Servant are Critical to Kelsey Lem

Kelsey Lem recognizes the significance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Even more importantly, she has seen the importance of how being Asian American and being in public service are intersected during this critical time.

“As a second generation Asian American on my mom’s side and third on my dad’s side, this is only a part of my identity,” said Lem. “APA heritage month is an opportunity to highlight and recognize the accomplishments that’s made APA history so compelling and how it paved the way for the contributions occurring in the present.”

When asked what APA heritage month means to her, Lem shared that her parents instilled in her the values and contributions of the Asian American culture. It has especially been more significant to her since the coronavirus health crisis, given that many Asian Americans have faced pandemic-related discrimination.

Kelsey Lem has been supporting the SFPUC’s department operations center since March.

Lem has been supporting the SFPUC’s Department Operations Center (DOC) since it was activated in March. In her role in the Personnel Unit, she is one of the people responsible for collecting, tracking, and managing all forms of data related to disaster service worker (DSW) work and deployments. This includes DSW deployments to the San Francisco’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), staffing the DOC, staffing for other DOC operations, and other DSW assignments.

“I update data for the Continuity of Operations Plan, verify DSW deployments, and continuously update the Personnel Unit’s many spreadsheets,” she shared. “A lot of my daily assignments include following up on data and contacting people for various staffing needs.”

Lem said that the data is important for updates and keeping track of which staff is is deployed, their assigned locations, in what capacity, and duration. “Additionally, we need to make sure our DOC operations and DOC staff have the roles filled to ensure continuity of operations in all aspects,” she said.

Kelsey Lem (right) with a family member.

Before the pandemic, Lem’s primary role was to onboard new staff as part of her normal responsibilities on the SFPUC’s Human Resources Employee Lifecycle Team. Her assignment at the SFPUC’s DOC has been similar to that, where it shares the “onboarding” of new team members stepping into a DOC function. “My workday looks very different. I work very closely with my counterpart in the Personnel Unit, so we have to be in sync with every assignment that the Personnel Unit takes on, every day,” Lem said. “Our communication and collaboration has really helped us succeed in our work in the SFPUC’s DOC.”

Although this pandemic has been an “inconvenience” to many people and even life-changing for others, Lem has experienced glimpses of hope. “I am fortunate that I have not faced any major, life-threatening challenges. I think I will come out of this more grateful for some of life’s simpler moments,” she shared.

An important part of being a public servant means Lem can support San Francisco and its community during times like these. “Seeing the numerous DSW requests and the resource needs makes me wish I could do more, but I’m glad I can be part of a team that plays an integral role in the emergency response,” Lem said. The spirit of the people who have been part of the SFPUC’s DOC and the City’s response is very motivating to her. “We can’t accomplish our objectives without each other and we face similar obstacles, so we’re in it together.”