Jenifer Sarver: Creating a voice
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Jenifer Sarver embodies the core values of success: resilience and grit. She says one has to “bounce back up, face challenges, face them head-on, learn from them, dust [oneself] off, and move forward.” Sarver grew up near the U.S.-Mexico border and is now the owner of Sarver Strategies in Austin, Texas. In 2018, she ran to represent Texas’ 21st District in the United States Congress. Her family was always civically engaged, primarily in their church community. She was able to understand that while she may not have grown up with much, she was privileged in comparison to many people in her community. Whether she was adopting families in Colonias so that they could celebrate Christmas, or expanding her communication skills within the political realm, Sarver developed an understanding of how important it is to ensure that everyone has a voice. She has remained consistent and grounded in her views, and after high school, decided to pursue a life in public service.
While attending TCU, Sarver took her first step into the political arena when she volunteered for a Congressional campaign. Shortly after, she was offered the position of deputy campaign manager. Learning about retail politics and supporting a female congressional candidate was inspiring for Sarver. Though her candidate did not win, it was an important moment. That year, 1996, was the last time a woman of either party would be elected to Congress from Texas until the 2018 cycle. The volunteer opportunity turned into a full time job on another campaign and gave Sarver the foot in the door she needed; she decided to take a leave from school and work on campaigns full time.
She later transferred to The University of Texas at Austin and, after graduation, began working at a high-tech public relations firm. However, Sarver still felt called to politics and public policy. That calling took her to Washington, D.C. In order to make an impact the way she intended, Sarver knew she needed to be on Capitol Hill. She moved to D.C. just three weeks after September 11 and ‘pounded the pavement’, distributing her resume across town. She landed an opportunity as a speechwriter in the office of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2002. Sarver’s experiences in Washington, ultimately helped lead her to her own Congressional race. She came in 5th in an 18-way Primary. While her campaign was unsuccessful, she continues to promote women and diversity in politics, especially in the Republican Party. She wants to ‘feed the pipeline’ and let young women know that they should not be discouraged by losing.
Sarver hopes to help young people find their purpose. She has established herself as a mentor by serving on the advisory board for Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, and the 40 Acres Society of the Texas Exes. Additionally, she has been involved in VoteRunLead and She Should Run, and is the National Board Chair for the newly-founded Women’s Public Leadership Network. There, she is working to build out a hub, both on and off-line that will help promote, train and equip more women to run for office. Sarver has remained grounded in her beliefs, valuing faith, family, and freedom. Her motto? “Be excellent.”