The secretary of state oversees the election process; do you have a role to play in that process?
We have a split leadership structure in the office: we have a chief of staff that oversees the internal operations, and then my job is to oversee, generally, the external affairs. But we both act as advisers to the secretary, we spend a lot of time with the secretary, and elections is the thrust right now for everyone. It’s all hands on deck. Everybody plays a role.
Since elections are every two years, what are some of the things the office works on?
The secretary of state’s office has three main programmatic areas. One is elections; we don’t run the elections, the counties and the cities run them. But we oversee, train, maintain the statewide voter database. But they don’t include being on the ground running them. We have a huge business services division which is the larger component of the office. It manages everything that business owners need to do in terms of registering with the state and keeping their registrations current. We also run a program called “Safe at Home,” which is a much smaller program but an important one. It works with people in the community who fear for their safety and we provide an address confidentiality program for people who want to keep their address private. The impetus was that there were people who were being stalked who wouldn’t be able to vote because their address would become public on the voter roster. They started happening around the country so people could vote and not fear for their safety.
I work with all of those to some degree. I oversee the legislative program, which in part, because the secretary comes from the house, is a pretty robust program. I oversee the legal program which tends to be very busy, I work closely with the communications team, a lot with the elections team.
Does it bother you that people think of this office as only election-based?
I think elections are the thing that is most visible. If you talked to a business owner, I think they would say ‘I’m in contact with the secretary of state’s office for business purposes.’ My husband owns a business and he’ll tell me he got a reminder from the office. For the folks for whom it is pertinent, it is a little more top of mind. Elections are, hopefully, more top of mind for the public.
Do most people realize that you’re just the overseers but elections are run at the local level?
The secretary of state is the chief election official for this state. So, there is a realistic view of that. In terms of nuts and bolts of the election process, I suspect that might not be as well-known that it’s something our office is doing. Whether people understand how it ties together I’m not sure.
You’ve been in the political realm for some time; is this role a departure?
It’s not a departure. There’s an evolution to my career. I’ve worked in a few different, very specific social issues. I worked in early-childhood education for long time. I worked in LGBT issues for a long time. And now the secretary of state’s office is my purview at this time. There’s a common thread across all of those for me in creating positive social impact in the community. This is a different issue area for sure, but it doesn’t feel so far afield.
If you look at most of the positions I’ve held, they are more direct advocacy. This a different role because I’m working with the secretary to move forward his agenda. I happen to really support him and agree with agenda, so that works out pretty well.
How much of your work has been informed by your Judaism?
I think there’s a thread. I grew up in NFTY. I grew up in Duluth and was really active in my synagogue, I was really active in my youth group, I lived in a Jewish co-op in college, I’ve spent time in Israel. I’m a product of the Jewish community for sure. The two pieces that most strongly draw me to Judaism are the community aspect and the social justice aspect. I don’t think I could point to every career choice I’ve made to say this is exactly how it emanates from my Jewish background, but I think all of the components of tikkun olam are pretty resonant from me. The way my career has been focused has really been about doing good in the community and making lasting change. I think that it’s not a uniquely Jewish philosophy, but I think it is a Jewish philosophy.
Favorite Jewish food?
Corned beef sandwich. I did a year stint with the ACLU in New York so I was there every month and I could get a little fix at Katz’s.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
We go to Shir Tikvah, and at Shir Tikvah my very favorite holidays are Purim and Simchat Torah. I think that’s because it’s the way I practice. Both of those are full-on celebrations at Shir Tikvah.
Are you excited for the election to be done?
Oh yeah. Yeah. I’m very excited. I think people in the world are very stressed, so I’m looking forward to it being done. We’re looking forward to a smooth election day. It’s gone smoothly so far, knock wood. But you want to get to the finish line and have everything go smoothly.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!