Rhetta Andrews Bowers: Being a bridge
Rhetta Bowers, recently elected to the Texas House of Representatives, is the first black woman to be elected in House District 113. “When you’re the first, you’re like a bridge,” she explained. “But bridges are made to be walked on. Although it’s uncomfortable to be walked on, it’s the only way to get to the other side— and create the change you want to bring to your community.”
Bowers’ life has been filled with activism, “bridge building,” and hard work from the time she was a small child. Her parents, each having their own unique political perspective, were prominent and recognized community leaders. Bowers had many brushes with politics in her childhood as a result— she worked on her mother’s campaign when her mother ran for the Texas House. She worked in phone banks for Mickey Leland’s campaign after he announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress in Bowers’ childhood home, and she was given several opportunities to see and interact with other prominent Texas politicians. These experiences paved the way for Bowers to begin to realize the leadership roles she would take in her community, in the future.
Bowers has since become a dedicated wife, mother, and educator, hoping to change her community for the better. She worked on countless campaigns, supporting others in their endeavors. She became well-known in her community, and was asked time and time again to run for public office. Each time, she refused. But as a part-time educator, Bowers began to notice that the burden of providing funds for public education was shifting to parents and citizens, in her community and across the state. “It wasn’t always like that,” she noted. So, in the summer of 2014, she decided to spend her time off by working for Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign. It was during her work with Wendy’s campaign that Bowers was made aware of the 2011 budget cuts impacting education in Texas. “Then the dots started connecting,” she said. “This is how I can really make a difference.” After being asked to lead her community nearly a dozen times, Bowers answered when the call came again in 2015 with a “yes!”
Since becoming a member of the Texas House Representatives, Bowers has earned a number of accolades including Freshman of the Year for the 86th legislative session from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. She also earned Distinguished Alumnus awards from both Spelman College and Texas Southern University. During the 86th legislative session, Bowers addressed the top issues facing her constituents; rising education costs, healthcare reform, and rising property taxes. She also used her time in the legislative session to encourage and create educational opportunities for women and girls. Bowers authored House Bill 3435, establishing March 1st as “Texas Girl’s in STEM Day” created to celebrate and encourage the participation of girls in Texas in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to celebrate and honor women who have excelled in those fields.
“Serving in this capacity is a selfless act,” Bowers said of her political experience. “It is hard work, but it’s worth it because it’s heart work.” To keep herself afloat while she tirelessly works for her community, Bowers relies on her spiritual connection to God and a little box of quotes. “It’s just this little cube, and it gives you a quote a day,” she explained. “That little box is sitting there on my desk, and I just turn the page and read the quote for the day— sometimes it’s scripture, sometimes it’s a quote by a prominent figure— but it really centers me and refuels me.” Bowers has shared the gift of inspiring quotes with former students and interns, as well as with her daughter for her upcoming graduation. “I am glad to share it, because I know what it does for me,” she said.
After winning a historic election, Bowers’ advice to others who plan to run for office is this: Be humbled by the service. She emphasized— “What we do truly is service… If you want to be successful in politics, it shouldn’t be about you. You will succeed if the people can see that your service comes from your heart.”