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How Rep. Maria Salazar found her greatest success in her 50s

Salazar is featured in Know Your Value and Forbes’ 50 over 50 list, which came out last week and spotlights women who are defying age and gender expectations.
Rep. Maria Salazar of Florida.
Rep. Maria Salazar of Florida.Rebecca Miller for Forbes

Rep. Maria Salazar thought she would always be a TV journalist. But after decades of interviewing high-profile personalities and politicians for Telemundo, Mega TV, CNN Español and Univision, she found a new calling in politics.

In 2020, Salazar, 59, became Florida’s 27th Congressional District Representative in an upset win against Democrat incumbent Donna Shalala. Salazar, a Republican, had lost to Shalala only two years before, but believes her resilience paved the way for her new career.

“If I had not tried it a second time, I would not be here in front of you representing my community,” said Salazar in an interview with Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski. “...

“No one really thought that I could win this race.”

Salazar is featured in Know Your Value and Forbes’ 50 over 50 list, which came out last week and spotlights women who are defying age and gender expectations. Other honorees include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Salazar told Brzezinski in an interview that she pivoted careers in her 50s due to her strongly held political beliefs, and her desire to represent her fellow Cuban-Americans in Florida.

“I knew that I stood for the values that are entrenched in my community, Cuban-Americans. I said I can represent them because they feel like me,” said Salazar. “...I know my people. I know they will vote for me, and I proved it.”

Salazar is no stranger to picking up and trying again. As a TV anchor, she spent three years doggedly trying to interview then-Prime Minister Fidel Castro until his administration relented, she told Brzezinski. She has also interviewed Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Mother Teresa.

RELATED: Women over 50: Our time is now

Salazar’s career has always been intense. And while she has thought of giving up many times, she told Brzezinski that she never will.

“…Sometimes the bosses don’t treat us well and we don’t get what we feel we deserve because we’ve worked so hard day in and day out—but a Cuban-American, daughter of political refugees, we never, never, never give up,” said Salazar.

She doesn’t fret about her age, and she has no plans to retire. As the mother of two grown children, Salazar recommended that young women take the time to raise their kids, in conjunction with their careers.

“In this country there’s time for everything. I think I’m a good example of that,” said Salazar. “Take it easy, work a little, play with your kids. Once they’re 18 or 21, do the other, bigger things...You cannot raise your kids, have a career and have a good social life. You have to pick two out of the three.”

She also noted that while her job in politics is the hardest yet, it’s also the most rewarding.

“This is probably one of the toughest jobs that I’ve done,” she said. “…But, it’s the most gratifying because you’re doing it for the common good. You’re doing it for what you believe in. Now, I am at the point where I will never give up...I will die doing this.”