“I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”
—General Charles de Gaulle
My Political Roots
I am a nurse, and I became the first health care professional elected into the Delaware General Assembly as well as the first Registered Nurse elected. The roots of my public service began in a farming community where I volunteered to help others in my church and with neighborhood organizations. At the age of 12, I was a candy-striper in a local hospital and continued my civic work during my teen years. When I entered college, I joined a political party. Though my parents were not politically active, my great-grandfather was a member of the Delaware House of Representatives in the 1920s, and I am a descendent of Delaware’s 16th governor.
My interest in politics began while working with underserved residents while completing my master’s degree in community health nursing in the late 1980s. I used an earlier edition of this book in my graduate program and vividly recall reading the chapters about becoming involved in politics. I began working with my local city government, the League of Women Voters, and a federal health clinic that served the homeless. Before these experiences, I had thought that public policy was “remote” to nursing and somewhat “dry.” These experiences changed my perspective.
Volunteering and Campaigning
I went on to volunteer with nonprofit and civic organizations, join professional associations, and complete my doctoral degree in nursing administration and public policy. During this time, I served as a United States Senate Fellow and as a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy analyst for the Secretary’s Commission on Nursing. These experiences exposed me to national policy work, federal officials, leaders in the nation’s health associations, and international researchers. I became actively involved with veteran’s organizations since my husband was active duty military. I also became a volunteer on political campaigns and with the Democratic Party. I had excellent mentors to assist me with both my nursing and my political career paths. All of these experiences helped me understand the policy process and the importance of building relationships.
I began my work in politics to make a difference in the lives of many citizens who lack life’s necessary resources. As a public health nurse, I had an interest in improving the services available to vulnerable populations. I continue to work to advance issues important to the residents I represent. These include health care, the environment, land preservation, education, and economic development.
There’s a Reason It’s Called “Running” for Office
A number of factors influenced my decision to run for public office in 2000, including my desire to make a significant contribution to the public’s health. As a university faculty member, I assigned students to various public health and health policy assignments. In these experiences, I witnessed the need for expert health knowledge in the Delaware General Assembly. The time was ripe within the political party and within my district to run for the Delaware legislature. I ran for office for the first time in 2000 and lost by a mere 1%. I had run against a long-term, male incumbent and learned some important political lessons. In 2002, political redistricting left a vacant seat and I ran again. This time, I won in a tough election against the president of the local school board. After serving 6 years in the House, I campaigned for, and won, a State Senate race in 2008 (Figure 77-1).