Misaki Collins: Finding your voice in local politics
Misaki Collins is a born and bred advocate—having recently graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in political science, Misaki has hit the ground running working within communities as an Economic Mobility Coordinator for Dallas Leadership Foundation and a Commissioner on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the city of Irving, Texas.
Misaki has always enjoyed working for and representing others. Every opportunity Misaki received from the time she was a little girl to run for a position and invest time into her community, she took. “Even in elementary school, I loved student council, I loved coming up with ideas… Even though I was not necessarily addressing important systemic issues, I felt a sense of pride when I could do something as simple as getting new food options at school for lunch.” This sense of accomplishment in helping others led Misaki to endeavor to participate in a high school program with IGNITE and Running Start—two national non-profit organizations that empowers young women to run for public office. Later, during her time in college, Misaki was one of seven applicants selected nationwide to serve as a Running Start Congressional Fellow.
As a Congressional Fellow, Misaki moved to Washington, D.C. to serve Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson for the 30th District of Texas and had the opportunity to help Representative Johnson build relationships to further her policy missions. Misaki immersed herself into the culture and experience of candidacy and national politics. In addition, Misaki received weekly training on how to become a candidate running for office. Remembering her time in D.C., Misaki remarked, “What surprised me the most about working in D.C. is that most of Capitol Hill is run by a bunch of 20-somethings! And while I was there, I was living in a house with seven other working women my age, and I was intentionally roomed with women who had different political views than I! I learned a lot in that house… In fact, I always say I learned more during my semester in D.C. than I did at any other point pursuing my political science degree.”
Although Misaki enjoyed her time working in D.C., her affection stayed with her local Irving, Texas community. “When my friends stayed in D.C., I left to go home,” Misaki admitted. She noted the importance of increasing representation in local politics. “Although Irving is one of the top 100 (most populated) cities in the United States, it is the only one of the top 100 that does not have a woman on the city council. Irving is also home to the most diverse zip code in the nation—still, this is not reflected in our representatives.” This drove Misaki to want to be more involved in Irving’s local politics, so she sought an appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission for the city. As a Commissioner, Misaki takes an important role in building and improving her community by helping determine whether developers are allowed to bring various types of public and commercial developments to the city.
When asked which of her various experiences working in politics and activism she felt was her greatest accomplishment, Misaki mentioned her volunteer work with March the Polls, an organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout. “We go to different high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to speak to students and register them to vote,” Misaki explained. “Anytime I had free time or could take time off of work, I’d use that time to go to these schools and talk to students. We not only register them to vote, but we also talk to them about ways they can be more involved—and I hope I’m planting seeds! These students are so ready to be involved, they just need a little nudge! I’m happy to nudge as many times as I need, because I would love to see more young people, more women, and more people of color involved in politics.”
Misaki’s nudging extends to everyone who might seek her advice. Her number one suggestion to women considering running for positions—get as involved as you can. “The more involved you are with communities and like-minded people, the larger your support system when you make that jump. Sometimes you just need empowerment to make the next step!” As to women wanting to get more involved in local politics? Misaki said just showing up makes all the difference. ”Just show up to city hall! Go to a meeting! You have a right to be there! Any time I see young people in the audience during meetings, I could literally do cartwheels!”
In terms of whether Misaki would like to run for a position soon, her future plans are not set in stone. Misaki, for now, will be continuing her education and her current roles empowering and helping her community—but, one day, you can expect Misaki’s name will be gracing a ballot again!