While this legislative session is winding down, it’s already time to start thinking about the next session. More specifically, it’s time to think about who will represent us starting next year. Could it be you?
If you’re a member who’s been thinking about running for state office, the time to sign up starts next week and the SEA wants to help you with the process. Over a dozen SEA members – both Democrats and Republicans – currently serve in the state legislature, fighting each day for working people in our state. One of those members is retiree Dianne Schuett, who is finishing her second term in the House of Representatives and preparing to run for a third. She said becoming a legislator was a natural transition after working for the state.
“When you’re a public employee, you’re already service oriented,” she said. “This is a way to carry that over.”
Schuett said she has found her connection with the SEA invaluable in her two terms in office. She found the organization’s assistance a great help, and said that the contact she has with members — her eventual constituents — is very valuable.
“I consider myself, as a retired state employee, to be in your court,” she said. “I think it’s important to have and maintain those contacts so you can hear what they have to say.”
Running for office can be an alien process, and that’s where the SEA’s help can come in handy. After signing up, you’ll need to actually campaign for office. Schuett said, for her, that included going door-to-door, writing letters to the editor and reaching out to any organization that she thought might be supportive.
“If you possibly can, find an issue that you’re interested in, and get up and speak for, or against, it,” she said. “That gets your face, and your views, known to constituents.”
The issue that first got her involved with the legislature came before she ever won an election. Her heating oil company went bankrupt with $1,400 of her money in a pre-buy contract. She found out at the time that there were no laws to protect the consumer in situations like that.
“I contacted my state representative about it, and followed the eventual bill through the process,” she said. “It’s not a perfect solution, but at least there is something there to protect customers now.”
“If you have something similar to that and you feel it’s important, then you need to stand up for it,” she said.
Schuett admits running for the legislature may not have been an attractive proposition in 2012 after the antagonistic session led by Rep. Bill O’Brien, but she thinks the turnaround seen in this session made for a much more positive environment.
“I’m hoping the collegial spirit that came about in this term will encourage more people to run,” she said. “If you run this time and are successful, I’m sure you’d be most interested in seeing that doesn’t recur. I think you’d find your time in office a lot more interesting and rewarding.”
Whether you’re a retiree, like Schuett, or an active employee, you’re encouraged to email Brian Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re thinking about running. In the past, active public employees were not typically allowed to run for office, but changes enacted in 2013 allow you to run for partisan office as long as your position isn’t completely federally funded. You can find out more about what you need to file for office at the Secretary of State’s website.