As of January 1, 2016, I am on a new adventure. I am serving as President of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women through the end of 2017. Having been involved with the organization on and off since age 19, I never thought I would step into the president’s role. I have always been involved in politics in some way, and others saw it coming long before I did. I always pushed it off with a, “No, that’s not for me.” or “I will help in other ways.”
When the nominating committee chair called me last year, I tried to tell her all of the reasons I should not be president: I work full time, I am sometimes involved in primaries with my day job (also in politics!), I like to challenge the process a bit too much at times, I would have high expectations for achievement, I haven’t always been the most tactful with people in the past (working on this!), etc. None of this dissuaded the nominating committee.
Then I learned who my potential teammates on the executive committee would be. I was sold. They are an amazing group of women. So I said yes.
Still, I worried. Did they really know what they were getting into? No, seriously! I’d like to think I have mad political organizing skills, but I am human and thus, not perfect.
When working behind the scenes, imperfections can be easily overlooked. When being the one front and center, they are often magnified. Don’t get me wrong: I am a confident person. In fact, Self Assurance is number four on my Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment. But even confident people worry about doing the right thing.
And this is about so much more than me. It’s about an organization that is tied to local, state, and national level organizations. Our mission is to elect Republicans, and we have a huge election in 2016. I wanted to do the role justice.
I was elected on October 17, 2015, and then I had October 17 – December 31, 2015, to navigate the transition between President Elect and President. During this time, I decided that I would do three things to be the best leader possible:
1. Communicate openly.
2. Be authentic.
3. Work my heart out and leave everything on the field.
On New Year’s Day 2016, I sent the following email to our IowaFRW members and friends:
I hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season and take a little bit of time to rest up for our busy year ahead.
Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do to spread our message, sign up new members, and help elect Republicans.
We have a lot to be proud of! Let me ask you this: What do the first female Iowa Senate President Mary Kramer, the first female Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, the first female Iowa Auditor of State Mary Mosiman, and the first female U.S. Senator from Iowa Joni Ernst all have in common?
They are all Republican Women! “Republican War on Women,” my foot!
We are the party of women’s suffragists and abolitionists. We are the party who lifts people up because we know a hand up is much more respectful and sustaining than a hand out.
We can hold our heads high going into 2016 because we are doing good work.
And yet, we have so much good work to do. Our job is never done.
We must sign up new members, engage our members, and implement an aggressive ground game to turn Iowa red in 2016.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the youngest woman elected to Congress, recently commented on her new role within the Republican party and on the Hill in D.C. She stressed that we need to be authentic, citing how she wears patterned tights instead of traditional panty hose from time to time. She also has her own way of connecting with constituents that is unique to her.
We each bring our own uniqueness to the table. I have been told more than once that I do not look or dress like a Republican (whatever that means!). We are a diverse group of women, and we are leaders in our communities. You are who you are everywhere, so always be recruiting women and men to join us.
I signed up to join the Iowa Federation of Republican Women in Mardelle Helmke’s living room in Humboldt, Iowa. The year was 1999, and I was a campaign staffer working for Elizabeth Dole for President. The IowaFRW President at the time, Deb Foster, cornered me in that living room and would not let me leave until I filled out a membership form. I gave her every excuse, including that I didn’t have time, and you know what? She said, “That’s OK. Just join and do what you can.”
You do not need to be President of IowaFRW to recruit new members. And you don’t need to be at a political event to ask someone about joining us. I need each and every one of you. Our country needs all of us.
Take a risk. Pour your heart and soul into our cause. You will not be disappointed. Our Republican candidates are all so much better than the alternative.
My challenge to you for 2016: Familiarize yourself with our IowaFRW 2016 Goals and do one thing you have not done before to help elect Republicans.
We must provide value in addition to being present. Too much is at stake to simply do what we’ve always done in the past.
In the words of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Let’s “Work hard, have fun, make history.”
I look forward to meeting or re-connecting with you during my travels. Let’s do this!
Your 2016–2017 President
Iowa Federation of Republican
So, here it goes! I’m on Day 19 in my role. I have already experienced a few successes and survived a few mistakes. Guess what? I’m still standing and more energized than ever.