I had a busy week last week but I was so excited and honored to be able to meet the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, last Thursday! Working full time while being a mom of two makes it hard to take off work and skip off to do things but luckily I have an amazing Supervisor and team that are willing to pick up on things to allow me to serve to the fullest during my reign of Earth's Eco Mrs. USA. It made it even more fun because my Daddy went with me. He and I share a love for politics and the public eye so having him go with me was some great daddy-daughter time!
Governor Brian Kemp and me last week!
One thing that I have learned over the course of my adulthood is that it does not always matter what you know, but who you know. No matter your political affiliation, you should try to meet and know your elected officials. These are the people who are the ones who can make things happen. They are also the ones who need to hear from their people what the needs and concerns are in the community and state. If they are not listening to you then they should not be there. Point blank. I have been pretty interested in politics since a young age when my dad was sworn in to the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority under Governor Zell Miller (D). I was in elementary school at that time and was able to watch him be sworn in at the Governor's Office. He now serves as my City Councilman so he gets to hear all my complaints! LOL.
My dad and Sonny Perdue (R), who currently serves as our US Secretary of Agriculture have been in the Agriculture business together since the 90's (well, technically since the 70's but have been working together since then) so when he served in Congress (at that time under the Democratic party) I got to serve as a page during session and run errands for the Senate. That's when I got my first taste of it! When Secretary Perdue decided to run for Governor in 2002 it was an awesome experience to have a front row seat to a very unexpected victory for the farm boy from middle Georgia to unseat the incumbent lawyer, Roy Barnes. A few years later in 2007, I had the opportunity to serve as an Intern in his Executive Office during his second term. During my time there I got to meet President Jimmy Carter, the 2006 Little League World Series Baseball Team, Dominique Wilkins, and multiple Governors and elected officials across the US. I even got to see the cast of Wild Hogs while promoting helmet safety during the release. Because of my internship I was able to meet the Commissioner of the GDOT and he is the reason I got my first job.
Governor Sonny Perdue and me in 2007.
One of Governor Perdue's Security Detail, Bobby, and me in 2007. He always made me feel safe at work and continually joked with me on how many pairs of shoes I owned. Sadly we lost Bobby a few years ago to a heart attack. He was an amazing person and I will always be grateful to his service to the State of Georgia.
As I have gotten into pageantry I have also started making it a point to know more of my elected officials. My friend, Melanie, said it best to me when we were talking about it. I told her my U.S. Congressman had called me to congratulate me on being named Georgia Jaycee of the Year and on the Queen of Bags Initiative and he said, "You've got my cell number, if you need anything just ask." I asked her did she think he really meant that? She said, "Did you vote for him?" I said, "Yes I did." She said, "Well then you most certainly can use it any time you need to!" Since then I have taken a new perspective on it. Your elected officials work for you and I and we deserve to be heard. If there is an issue you think needs awareness brought to it, go for it. We have lobbyist all across our country who focus on areas that need attention. If you feel strongly about the public school system or mandated recycling programs in the state, maybe you think animal shelters should all be turned into no-kill, or you think the laws on drunk driving are not strict enough, fight for it! If you think it is something you can start at the local level, put it on the agenda for City Council and attend the meetings. There are likely more people in your community and state that feel the same way as you but are scared to stand up for it.
US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and my family at the Georgia Feed and Grain Convention in Amelia Island, Florida in 2017.
My US Congressman, Jody Hice, and Me in 2018.
The main focus of my pageantry is to raise awareness on needing more adoptive and foster families. When I had the opportunity to speak to my US Congressman, Jody Hice, the first thing I said is, "We need to make it more financially feasible for the middle class to adopt a baby." No sugar coating to it. Not many families can afford to take out a loan for $40,000 to go through a private adoption and then pay for diapers, formula, clothing, daycare, life. I explained that even though there is a tax credit that is applied the year your adoption is finalized most people cannot afford to have that loan and interest and if you child is born in the later part of the year then the adoption will not be finalized until the following year, making that credit not arrive until almost two years later. For us, Judson was born in November of 2013. His adoption was finalized in April of 2014. We got our tax credit in November of 2015 because we had to file an extension on our taxes in order to have his SSN arrive after the finalization. So, that's two years of loan payments before we ever even saw a credit. Don't get me wrong, that credit was an amazing help and we were able to knock some years off of our loan but it still did not cover it and by that point we were parents of two with two daycare bills. These are things elected officials may not think about or realize. They are dependent on everyday people who have lived the process to tell them, "This is not working." It is then their responsibility to take action on them. In 2018 Georgia got a beefed up Adoption bill come through and some changes were made. The Federal tax credit amount has also increased since we adopted but there are still things to do. As an adoptive mother I feel it is my responsibility to stand up for those who want to adopt and that is why I am constantly trying to meet and know my elected officials!
Former Milledgeville Mayor, Gary Thrower, and me in 2017 at a City Council meeting where National Adoption Day was recognized.
So what should you do? Get out there and meet "your people" and tell them what you need. Let them help you get what you as a tax paying citizen deserve. Make them aware of the issues they need to be fighting for and give them the resources needed to do their job to the best of their ability for you! Again, if they are not listening and they are not helping the people in their district then they should not be there. They are here for you and me and the more you raise awareness the more likely an issue can be addressed! Do not let your political preference stand in your way. If you are Republican and have a Democratic representative then they should be trying to prove why you need to change your vote next time and vice versa. They are elected to work for ALL people in their area so get out there and give them something to do for you!
Governor Nathan Deal (R) and my family at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards in 2011.
If you are not a registered voter then stop what you are doing and get registered! You have absolutely no excuse not to vote. The below link can get you started!
I have high hopes of running for office one day and being the Governor who represents all Children. Who knows, maybe it will happen but if it doesn't and I have different plans then I will continue to advocate for Adoption and Fostering Awareness and the Queen of Bags Initiative with those who are in office. Remember, if you don't like what is happening, do something about it. Maybe you don't want to run for office yourself but you can definitely get out there and support those who are in office and help them help you. If you do not raise awareness on a need then how can you expect it to be known. Although the underlying issue may be there sometimes we have to give a little shove to get our officials going with it. Do not be afraid to do it and if you do have aspirations to run for office, even if it is a secret dream, then I encourage you to start getting involved. If you ever do run and you have been involved in your "platform" for a while then your records are going to back you up and give you the starting ground for your promises if elected. Go for it and I will see you in Washington one day!
Daddy, Me, Representative Rick Williams (R) and Representative Mack Jackson (D) from my former home and current home districts, respectively, last week at the Capitol.