By ASHLEY PARKER
"This freshman class wants to get things done and is very solution-oriented. And so far I can tell that we’re really working well together," said Representative Mimi Walters, Republican of California.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Representative Mimi Walters of California is the freshman class envoy to the Republican House leadership team, and she is the only Republican woman from her state in the House. So it is no surprise that she is already attracting attention.
A former mayor of Laguna Niguel, Calif., and a state legislator, Ms. Walters arrived in Congress from California’s 45th District ready to learn. One of the best tips so far came from Representative Susan W. Brooks, Republican of Indiana: Women can wear their congressional pin on a chain as a necklace.
Ms. Walters, 52, showed off the pin during an interview, which has been condensed below. “Listen, this thing took me 18 years to get,” she said, referring to her career in elected office, “and it’s the most expensive piece of jewelry I own.”
You are the mother of four children between the ages of 18 and 22. How did that prepare you for the rigors of Congress?
I’m used to solving lots of conflicts, and I actually think that that experience — being a mom, especially with kids so close in age — has prepared me for this job, because there’s so many competing interests and you have to oftentimes find resolutions to disagreements.
The 2010 class was the Tea Party class. In broad strokes, what do you think is the goal and tone of the freshman class of the 114th Congress?
This freshman class wants to get things done and is very solution-oriented. And so far I can tell that we’re really working well together, and we want to move our agenda forward.
Any key issues?
I think unanimously we’re all very concerned about jobs and making sure that we create more jobs for people in America.
You have said you would like to be a mentor to other women. What advice do you give women considering a run for office, who are balancing the demands of parenting and family?
It is a big demand. And I think what women need is just the confidence that they can do it. And one of the ways they’ll get the confidence they can do it is that they see other women doing it. I mean, I’ve had to juggle my four kids; I have a husband; I still run the house; I pay all the bills — none of that has changed being 3,000 miles away. My husband is very supportive and very helpful, but ultimately, I have always felt that that has been my responsibility. And, you know, we make it work.
Recently, women in the Republican conference helped scuttle a vote on a 20-week ban on abortions because they felt it did not do enough to accommodate victims of rape. What concerns, if any, did you raise behind the scenes?
I did have a concern about the language, and many of the members of the freshman class came to me — men and women, voicing their concern — and being at the leadership table, I was able to voice the concern to the leaders.
You are from California. When it comes to immigration, what in your ideal world would you like to see happen?
We need immigration reform, there’s no question, but we need Congress to make the reforms and put them into law. We need to secure the border. We need to decide what we’re going to do with the 11 million people that are in this country. We need a guest worker program — agriculture very badly needs this problem resolved.
Does your comprehensive plan at some point include some form of legal status for the 11 million immigrants already here illegally?
I would support a pathway to legalization for those 11 million that are here, but you have to remember that people have gone through this process already, and we should not be putting those people ahead of the people that have gone through the process. Another issue we have to deal with are people who are here on expired visas. We need to have reform when it comes to our visas.
You have described yourself a “practical conservative.” What does that mean?
I have a philosophy of limited government and accountability, and I believe that people should keep more of their money when they work hard, and not have government take their money from them, because I think people can spend their money more wisely. But I’m also very practical that government’s job is to sometimes help those people who need help — not to give them money to just give them money, but to give them tools to help bring them out of poverty. And sometimes we have to make decisions that I’m not necessarily going to agree with everything in a piece of legislation, but I’ll take 80 percent. I don’t have to be 100 percent purist.
You come to Congress with a lot of local political experience. But what has surprised you most about Congress so far?
The pace here is pretty fast. I mean, I was busy in the State Senate, but I’m really busy here, and just being new, trying to learn my way around has been a challenge — I think a challenge for everybody — but I love it. It’s an honor.
Did you get any good tips from female members? I know it can be hard just with the shoes, walking on the marble all day.
I will not wear high heels two days in a row. I now have brought many flats back from California here, because it’s just too difficult. I’ve fallen down twice already, and it’s a little embarrassing. I didn’t expect I’d be having to walk as much. But it’s great, because you get to stay in shape.
A version of this article appears in print on March 3, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Singular Presence Among the Leadership.