Kristen Ishihara: It began with a dog park
As a woman in East Texas politics, Kristen Ishihara is making a difference in her community and giving back in every way she can. Though not raised in Texas - or even in the southern region of the United States, for that matter - Kristen Ishihara has found that her family, friends, and Christianity have shaped her into the politician she is today. After graduating from Western Michigan University, Ishihara moved to Waco, Texas, where she attended Baylor Law School. She moved to Longview, Texas, and was first exposed to small-town politics when she noticed there was not a public dog park in the area.
Leadership Longview is a program designed for members of the community to better know and understand the businesses, politics, and people in Longview, and it was through this program that Ishihara was introduced to a number of the city’s elected officials. Upon asking if Longview would ever have a dog park, Ishihara was surprised by the answer: though the city may one day finance a public dog park, if one should arise within “the next five years, it would be through a group of private individuals that organized, fundraised and put into place the logistics for the park.” No one was volunteering towards creating this service, so Kristen Ishihara decided to do it. When asked about the outcome of her first experience participating in municipal government, she says, “Simply deciding that you are committed to seeing something through will result in that becoming a reality.”
Though Ishihara’s role in politics is not her career, she works for her community through both. As an elder law attorney, she provides legal aid to the elderly and disabled communities of Longview and surrounding areas. As a city councilwoman, Ishihara makes important decisions on behalf of the Longview community and describes this role as service to her community. It is necessary for a city to be guided by a diverse representation of people, and Kristen Ishihara speaks for the young women of Longview. The city’s biggest problem is being tackled piece by piece as Ishihara addresses poverty through city council meetings and by volunteering at local nonprofits in her private life. Gregg County (in which Longview is located) has a higher rate of poverty than the national average, and specifically it has a higher child poverty rate than that of the state (USCB, 2017). As a member of the Junior League of Longview, Ishihara proudly sponsors the annual poverty awareness conference that brings attention to those suffering in town and ways the community can help.
With no prior knowledge to campaigning and no incumbent to out- race, Kristen Ishihara’s entrance into the political field was aided by the advice of her mentors and other city council-people. The previous representative of her district had met his term limits, so when she decided to run Kristen was able to talk with him and gain insight. Additional resources come from the Longview mayor, other council members, prior council members, city manager and city staff, our Economic Development Corporation, Chamber of Commerce, county judge and officials, and other local professionals. However, not all of Ishihara’s guidance comes from politicians. She says her biggest support is that of her husband’s who is a “great sounding board [with] very reasonable and sound advice.”
Because of the role model she is and strives to be, Kristen Ishihara would encourage other young women to run for office, get involved in community activities, volunteer, reach out, and build a solid network of relationships to count on when campaigning. Being responsive to her constituents is something Ishihara is most proud of and an aspect of an elected official worth noting; listening and respecting the voice of other people will further the community in more ways than one can expect.