Election season. Where political signs are everywhere, like a growth of an invasive plant, and constant flyers filling your mailbox.... and I'm apart of it. This year my name will be on our (local) ballot. The feeling that comes with seeing my name on a ballot is something I have never felt. To have the opportunity to give back, be the voice for my community, and help make a difference fills me with joy and excitement.
The past three years I have worked on making a difference in my district, yet there is a big difference from being involved as a resident and being an official, or a potential official. Prior to running, and when I was throwing around the idea of running, I searched for others experience on their journey into the world of being a public servant. Seeing what their thoughts were during, after, and to really get a sense of what I was getting myself into. I met with past local representatives, current, and talked to people who made it all the way up to a state representative. They all had their personal stories, but everyone one of them had one thing in common; they said it was WORK. A lot of work, but was well worth their time and effort. I wanted to add to this. They left out so much information.
I get asked on a regular basis, "What's it like campaigning?" Best way to describe the feeling is, it's finals week, you are taking 5 classes. Each class has an exam and three decided to throw a 20 page thesis paper on last minute... It's missing your kids WHOLE soccer season to make sure your residents know who you are and making sure you are available for their issues. It's not seeing your friends, or a gym, in months (miss you both dearly). It's piles of laundry, grab and go meals, and an insane amount of coffee.
But that's not all.
It's also getting your kids excited about their future, voting, and community involvement. It's having your child asking you to help put signs up, or asking when they can vote to make a difference. It's getting to know your neighbors then being invited to their 65 year wedding anniversary. Its meeting your neighborhood kids and sharing stories and fortnite dance moves. It's being able to help restore confidence in your community, and ensure that you care as much about them as you do your family. It's getting hugs and high fives when you share your platform. It's having your child look at you and tell you "Mom I am so proud of you, thank you for running." It's seeing your spouse, who never was involved in politics previously, ready to do everything to ensure you succeed. It is the biggest privilege to run....
"Civic participation over a lifetime, working in neighborhoods and communities and service of all kinds - military and civilian, full-time and part-time, national and international - will strengthen America's civic purpose." ― John McCain
Some facts before I go further. A district race is a smaller selection of a larger location. Jacksonville Beach is split up into three different districts. Jacksonville Beach has a population around 24,000 people. I am running for District 1 and have close to 6,000 registered voters. Jacksonville Beach is also a non partisan race. These are some additional aspects that I wish I understood when previously voting for public office.
I now understand why we only have wealthy members in higher office. I knew that political races were not cheap, yet I was shocked on how much a district race was. Talking to multiple people my numbers to fund-raise were between 12-15k. You read that correct. Basically the cost of a descent used car. This was hard to accept. We are very fortunate to live comfortable on our income. It was uncomfortable to ask for help/monetary donations. I expressed my concerns over this number to a friend in politics, and his response resonated with me.
"Shandy the people that donate to you believe in you. They trust you to do the best for them and your community."
It changed my thinking behind asking for money. Instead I saw it as an investment, they are investing in me for their future. Every donation I received meant that much more. They trusted me. Majority of my donations have come from residents rather than businesses. Knowing where my donations are coming from, makes this race more amazing. My neighbors believe in me.
2. Takes a village
I believe this is life's motto. When Trey was sick it took a village. Raising kids takes a village. Government is no different. When Trey was sick, it was interesting to see who showed up to help, to lend a hand, and be a shoulder to cry on. Campaigning is exactly that. I have been shocked to see who showed up to help, who came out to knock on doors, and who was there to cheer me on when energy levels were in the negatives. "Politics", I use that term loosely here, adds another controversial layer. People are uncomfortable with politics. It gives people an uneasy feeling when the discussion comes up, people get concerned how supporting one candidate over another will effect how others perceive them. However, we need you. We need your help to get elected. Earning a monetary donation is only a small portion of it. A candidate told me something early on, and he was so right.
"A candidate is short on two things, Money and Time."
If you believe in someone, donate your time. I promise it goes just as far, if not farther than a monetary donation. I am so thankful for those that have made time for me during this. I could not do it without your help. Now that I know how important this part of campaign is, I can't wait to volunteer. I look forward to believing in someone enough to take the time out of my schedule to help knock on doors, or show up at a campaign rally or two.
3. Back first.
Just like support local, you need to vote local. Start with the back of the ballot. Local is where it starts. I mean where EVERYTHING starts. Your local officials talk up the chain. Your small local government is the one talking to your district representative, your senator, etc.. This is your first step on making sure your larger government is what you want to see. Don't get me wrong voting for your state or national representative is important, but local is the "bread and butter". It is where you are impacted the most. This is who you contact when you don't like what you are seeing in your city and your neighborhood. We are the first defense. They want to hear from you, I promise. Your local government is the one who gets you your sidewalks, enforces the laws and makes sure you and your family is being looked out for. This is where it starts. I cannot stress this one enough, do your research. These people impact your life more than anyone else. (Hashtag keep home rule!)
4. The WHY.
This is probably the number one question I get asked, followed by "We are so divided, do you really want this?"
My answer is always "Yes, absolutely!"
When someone has the courage to run for office they are running to improve their communities because we want to help. I may not agree with every candidate running; however, I do not question their intentions. You have to be somewhat altruistic even to consider running. The goal is to help as many residents as possible, and answer the question "How do we as elected officials improve your quality of life in our community?" That is it. If you meet someone running on a different platform, run. You matter, your family matters, our community matters.
I am running just for that. My community is my investment. I want to improve my community, my home. When I started this journey, my goal was just to be a voice for my district as I felt our voice had been there just not as loud. Although that is still my goal to be a really really loud voice, my commitments grew. I want to show to my neighbors we are indeed in this together. We aren't as divided as the news, social media, and even local Facebook pages <<insert eye roll emoji>> want to try and make it appear. Going door to door has been the most beautiful experience. The hugs, high fives, and even the woman crying with joy that I actually wanted to hear from her. (Hey Suzy!) It is time for the government to do more talking. I'm ready for this. I am ready to be the voice, to give back, to stir up a conversation, and to listen.
“Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off. But if you don't have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.” ― Amelia Earhart
With only 17% of our nation being involved in government, I am truly honored to try and join that population. As I wrap up this process. I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for all that have supported me, talked to me, and even the ones that are against me. I appreciate every one of you. You have highlighted my strengths, shown me ways to grow, and proved to me that we are one beautiful, diverse community.