Growing up in a small town made it easy to be involved in local politics. I helped with my first school levy when I was in 8th grade and continued to cover local government as a newspaper stringer in high school. I visited Washington DC two times in high school for awards trips, one for the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and one for the Washington Journalism Conference. I even ran for Lieutenant Governor at Buckeye Girls State during high school.

Visiting the White House as part of the Washington Journalism Conference

My first run for office at Buckeye Girls State

Early career aspirations

It’s no wonder that I started college as a political science and journalism major with intentions of going to law school and into politics. If you have read my byline or seen my LinkedIn page, you know I deviated from his path. Our current political environment has made me examine what happened on this path and how I can re-engage in politics in a meaningful way. This is a follow-up to my post election blog post. 

One step toward re-engaging was to participate in Ignite Change, an event put on by The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. Being in a place where women were encouraging other women to both talk to their legislators about applying a gender lens to policy as well as run for office made me examine why I changed my initial course. Several of my male classmates are now in elected positions or planning their campaigns. I can’t say the same for any of my female classmates.

Key things that deviated my path:

Working at the House of Representatives – as a freshman in college I worked as a Congressional Page at the Ohio Statehouse. Mostly, I fetched coffee, and occasionally a bagel for an elected official. An exciting day meant that I might get to make copies. Attending general sessions was about as exciting as watching paint dry. I didn’t get to talk to constituents about how laws affect them. I decided after six months that it would be more fun to work in a fast-paced campus job.  

Living and working in DC – My junior year in college I participated in the John Glenn Washington Academic Internship Program. Instead of working on the Hill or at a think tank, I trekked to Silver Spring, Maryland every day to work for a healthcare non profit. The work being done was extraordinarily meaningful and my internship project was a good lesson in getting legislation passed. What I couldn’t understand at the time was: why did it take so many people and so much money to pass a bill that was a no-brainer?

Life happened – My two immersions into government didn’t make me eager to go to law school. I kept my political science major, and added a second major in psychology because it interested me more. By this time, I had also met my now-husband, who was in graduate school at Stanford. We got engaged, married, and I moved across the country. I worked at the university and became involved in the Palo Alto community. I was in California during the bizarre recall election of Governor Gray Davis and subsequent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Life continued to happen at a rapid pace – graduate school for me, new job, new house, and babies. And then last week I lifted my head to realize I was back at the Ohio Statehouse to learn how I can have my voice heard.

My key takeaways from the event:

Mentor young women – Several eager college students addressed the crowd and indicated their desire to go into politics. I could see myself in those young women. We need to stay close to them and mentor them as “life happens” to them.

Become engaged at all levels of government – Posting an anti-this or pro-that on our Facebook wall won’t accomplish much. We need to become educated and voice our opinion on issues at the local, state, and national levels. A new resource I learned about at the event was the Countable app. It gives you an overview of what issues are up for a vote and provides an easy option to contact your Senators and Congressional representatives. 

Bring focus to the impact of public policy on women and minorities – Women and minorities are negatively affected by select public policies and pending legislation – think health care, minimum wage laws and parental leave. It’s important to take a minute to walk in the shoes of those affected to put a face on our laws.   

What I’m going to do: I’m going to get my head out of the sand. It’s was easy to burrow as life happened. I realized while sitting in the Statehouse rotunda that the country needs my strong voice. Whether it’s an occasional call to my Senator or Representative, attending a local city hall meeting, or simply following the pending legislation to be fully informed, I can make a difference. A future run for office remains unseen, but I will never say never.

Small Town Leadership Lesson: It was easy to be engaged in public life in a small town. It takes education and effort to move that engagement forward on a larger scale. My key to becoming re-engaged is to remind myself that real people are affected by laws and policies. I will walk in their shoes and take action from there. I will think of my 2017 mantra as I engage in this work: Not a single person in this world chose where, how and to whom they were born. All of us have a great opportunity – or perhaps even an obligation – to understand our differences and embrace diversity. 

What are you going to do to have your voice heard? No matter what side of the aisle you are on, I invite you to join me in getting educated and active. 

Natalie

Natalie

Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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