Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Berthiaume has been preparing for her political service her entire life--even if she wasn’t meaning to. Although her family’s homebase was Northern Virginia, her parents’ public service careers meant they traveled extensively throughout her childhood. Berthiaume was born in Okinawa, Japan and spent time in Panama and Poland growing up.
When Yolian Ogbu and Hillary Shah were finishing up their high school careers at Lone Star High School in Frisco, Texas, they each had several options to pursue their college careers, Yolian planning to double major in Political Science and Communications and Hillary in Political Science and Economics. Both chose to attend the University of North Texas, because it was affordable and close to family, but they also ended up with a home and a community. A Sophomore and Freshman respectively, Yolian and Hillary needed little time on campus to recognize the blatant shortcomings of the organization that is meant to maintain that home and community through student representation: The Student Government Association. With the help of their mentor, Misaki Collins, the duo launched a historic and dynamic run; Yolian for President and Hillary for Vice President.
Judge Kathy Gwinn is the Justice of the Peace (JP) for Precinct 3 of Hood County located in the small town of Granbury, Texas. In 2014, after making it through the Republican primaries, Gwinn won a runoff election with just over 60% of the vote. After serving her first four-year term, she was re-elected this year uncontested.
Honorable Lana Myers currently serves in Place 4 as a Justice for the 5th District Court of Appeals, covering a large portion of North Texas. Her journey as a conservative elected official has spanned for more than two decades, including terms on the 5th District Court of Appeals and the 203rd Judicial District Court, a criminal district court in Dallas County. Her passion for politics spurred in her childhood but did not avail to fruition until she began working for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. As a candidate who has faced both an appointment and an election process, she recognizes the partisan and politically-charged challenges of becoming an elected official. Lana advises young women interested in pursuing office to “exude your own credibility.”
TEDx speaker, blogger, and lifelong educator Suzanne Smith is running for Texas State Board of Education District 12, encompassing parts of Collin County and Northeast Dallas County. For Smith, this is her dream job, providing her an ability to be exposed to the world that she accredits much of her success to: public school education. Smith eventually became a teacher herself, following a family lineage of teachers and school administrators. Now, she is vying for an opportunity to serve students within the State of Texas through the capacity of an elected official, where she can transform public education spending.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, she started off feeling queasy and even throwing up before public speaking engagements. Now, Sarah Depew is confidently running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, District 67 (or TX-HD 67). Her transition into confidence began after connecting with a group of fellow women candidates across North Texas, now referred to as the Women on Fire. Depew knew she had to run for office after the 2016 Presidential Election, citing that there was no longer a “good enough excuse not to.” Despite her original timid tendencies, Depew admires her own journey of finding strength, while relying on a fellowship of other women. She is, for all purposes, a woman on fire.
Tania Rodriguez is part of the movement to recall Councilmember Tom Harrison’s seat on the Plano City Council; Councilmember Harrison fell under fire after he shared a video on his Facebook account, calling for a ban of Islam in schools. Rodriguez and fellow community members in the City of Plano have acted to remove Harrison from the council, including filing a petition that garnered over 4,400 signatures to recall his election. Now, Rodriguez hopes to utilize her experience mobilizing her community in an effort to eliminate hate speech and discrimination through the local organization Our Plano, One Plano. Rodriguez wants to eliminate discrimination, saying “it has no place in this community of ours.”
Jan McDowell recently won the Democratic nomination for the 24th Congressional District of Texas against three other opponents. Miraculously, she left the primary election without a run-off. McDowell accredits her phenomenal success to her former campaign for Congress in 2016, when she began garnering community support. Additionally, McDowell has been living in North Texas since she was eight years old, giving her insight to the changing demographics of the community. Now as a campaign veteran, McDowell is flying speedily towards a potential success in November’s general election.
Jennifer Edgeworth is running to become a district court judge in Collin County.She swept the Republican primary in March by defeating three other candidates without a runoff, including a two-term incumbent judge.Edgeworth is now unopposed in the general election and on track to become an elected official. Once elected in November, Edgeworth will serve as the seventh female judge on a bench of eleven total district judges in one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This example of parity and prosperity in Collin County is one Edgeworth hopes neighboring communities in Texas will look to for inspiration. In Collin County, Edgeworth feels that she is on the cusp of a unique opportunity, where men and women serve equally.
Mayrani Velazquez, a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and founding member of Sigma Lambda Gamma at the campus, was raised in Terrell, Texas – the same city where she is currently running for a position on the school board. As a candidate for Terrell Independent School District, Velazquez accredits much of her campaign knowledge to the Latino Center for Leadership Development (LCLD), an institution in North Texas that trains aspiring politicians to serve communities through elected offices. Outside of LCLD, Velazquez emphasizes the experiences she had growing up in the school district she now aspires to serve.She was the first to graduate high school and go to college in her family and thanks her father for instilling the value of education in her. Now, Velazquez seeks to strengthen the relationships between families and schools.