Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.
Significant other? Kids?
My husband and I have five adult children – three from his first marriage and two from mine. Our kids work in a range of fields: science, law, business, public policy and social work. Of course, I think they are the most intelligent, hardest working young people I know. As the mom and step-mom of them, who range 24 to 33 years of age, I don’t relate personally to disparaging comments about millennials because I’ve met so many of their friends and those other young people, too, give me hope for our future.
Education background? Professional background?
I was the first in my family to graduate from college – my parents did not – and I did so at the age of 31 while working full-time, already a mom to my 7-year old daughter and four months pregnant with my son. One of the reasons I don’t like the message “not everyone wants or needs to go to college” is it misses the more important point of assuring the opportunity to attend college for those who want to, even if they come from a background of financial hardship. I’m a champion for personal choice, setting one’s own direction. Every person should have an opportunity to build their career, in college, trade school, the military, or elsewhere that their interest and ability takes them. Let’s promote a love of learning, valuing of hard work, and support of options that lets each person pursue a path to financial security and meaning that they themselves choose – that options aren’t limited severely by the family into which one is born or their home’s zip code.
I have a master’s degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work. I defended my doctoral dissertation on high-conflict divorce and its potentially corrosive effect on children while undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer and was the class speaker at graduation in 2014.
What was your first job?
I was 15 when I went to work as a sales associate for a small, family-owned woman’s clothing shop. I loved working for this entrepreneurial and civic-minded family and am still friends with them today. I learned about my personal responsibility at work, business, sales, and more in that job. It was a great experience that I’m fortunate and grateful to have.
In 25 words or less why are you running for office?
I was moved by women in Jacksonville, alarmed by President Donald Trump’s behavior toward women. I felt the need to step forward and serve.
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?
I spoke with many people, across party lines, before filing including Democrats Senator Audrey Gibson, former candidate Lisa King and former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg as well as Republicans such as Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche and former mayoral candidate Audrey Moran, to name just a few.
Who do you count on for advice?
I have a wide range of friends and family, from different backgrounds including business, the military, and education that provide me advice, perspective, and support. They are people active in both parties and not at all political as well. One cannot have too many good friends, and it’s best when they have different perspectives, as many of us now are subject to hearing over and over the thoughts of those encased in their own ‘bubbles’ or narrow points of view.
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
Scott Arceneaux is my political consultant and my campaign manager is Haleigh Hutchison, Councilman Tommy Hazouri’s former executive assistant. I really like my team; they are experienced locally and statewide, and deeply ethical. As a first-time candidate, immersed before filing in the running of my own small business, I wanted thoughtful assistance. That’s the process I’ll use as a legislator – one similar to my response to this and the previous question – listening to a wide range of knowledgeable input.
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
Patty Forbes. She worked most of her career as a lawyer and small business program manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration in D.C. and later as Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During her career, she developed and refined many Federal small business programs aimed at providing access to capital and business education to new or growing small business owners. One of her proudest accomplishments was the enactment of the Small Business Administration’s Microloan Program which has provided small loans to budding entrepreneurs for more than 25 years. After her retirement in 2014, she taught low-income children in the Virginia public schools.
Patty has known me for decades and knows I am ethical, caring, hard-working, a good listener and a fighter for what is right and if elected, she knows I will do everything I can to address the real needs of ALL of the people in District 15.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Tracie Davis. They are two strong, approachable, and effective legislators who care about their constituents and Jacksonville. I can’t wait to work with them in Tallahassee.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
I think many people see elected officials as unapproachable or distant, non-transparent or opaque. As a professional working in the field of human behavior, I know definitively that we are all human, unique, fallible and, yet, redeemable. Some officeholders become swayed by power, money, and fame; their identity becomes fused with ‘a role’ versus seeing themselves as simply ‘a person’. I am fully aware that I’m just a person, with my own unique abilities and needs and aspirations for our community common to many. My many roles in life include being a mom, mental health professional, a business owner, wife, daughter, and now candidate. Each of these roles is a part of my overall identity, which remains essentially unchanged by the political process. During my campaign I have been very approachable, and I’ll remain so. I sit with anyone willing to have a conversation about the needs of our community. I will bring that openness and availability to Tallahassee as the next State Representative in District 15.
What are the three issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)
I’m reluctant to not mention as one of my top three issues – education – as voters in House District 15 have told me over and over that (a) it is the issue that matters most to most, though not all, people and (b) they want addressed Florida’s school and student performance, which has fallen far behind many states.
My work’s focus has been on families for as long as I can remember. I’m deeply engaged in why some families struggle to get by financially, why some families are devastated by domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and why other families seem more caring, stable and successful. From this focus on families it’s clear that nearly every issue our community struggles to improve requires support of the family, including these issues important to me as House District 15’s Representative: 1. high-quality and affordable health care, the absence of which can devastate families financially; 2. public safety, crime prevention and its clear connection to drug abuse and, more generally, mental health; and 3. improved public education and its undeniable linkage to good, well-paying jobs.
What is a disruptive issue you are interested in?
In the state of Florida, it is unambiguously apparent, by the science and what’s happening in our repeatedly flooding streets that rising water levels and climate change rise is a “disruptive” issue. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the need for a comprehensive plan to address the infrastructure improvements needed to address this; the potential effects if unaddressed are too severe, financially and environmentally. Furthermore, there is great economic opportunity in Florida and Jacksonville becoming a leader in “green” and sustainable environment industries.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
A representative that will fight for every person and family in Jacksonville, no matter of party affiliation, economic condition, age, gender, race, sexual orientation or background. I believe most of us want similar things – to feel safe in our homes and communities, a good job paying a wage from which a person can support oneself, opportunities for advancement for those who strive, to raise our children with excellent public schools nearby, to be able to go to a doctor and get medical treatment without the fear of bankruptcy or losing one’s home.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
Reubin Askew. He was an early champion of civil rights and was instrumental in helping move Florida in the right direction during the 1960’s and 70’s. He was known for his honesty and integrity and ushered in an era of transparency and good government that we still benefit from in the form of our Sunshine laws and an independent judiciary. We could all learn from his example.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
For me they’re a fun part of campaigning; I enjoy talking with voters as they let me place a sign in their yard. One morning while I was out canvassing my campaign manager messaged me saying: a person had seen my yard sign, ‘googled’ me to learn more about who I am, then called our office to ask for a sign, and had just made a very generous donation to the campaign. All without having met me in person yet. After I finished canvassing I delivered a sign to them and we spent some time discussing issues that matter most to them.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
I reach for my phone first thing each morning to make sure none of my patients or family members are in crisis, then I read my email where there are links to articles in the Florida Times Union, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and other news sources.
Where do you get your political news?
The local and state newspapers I mentioned above and Florida Politics, public radio (WJCT here in Jacksonville), and other sources such as national newspapers and reliable websites.
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
Yes, my campaign can be found online at www.polsonforjacksonville.com, on Facebook and Instagram at “Polson For Jacksonville,” and on Twitter @PolsonForJax.
In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?
I’m a mental health professional, small business owner, cancer survivor and an Army veteran’s daughter. I’ve spent my life studying why some families thrive and others struggle to survive. I will bring my professional expertise to Tallahassee and fight every day for working families in Jacksonville.
Between my business and the campaign, I do not have as much time for hobbies now, but I enjoy biking for fitness, working out with a helpful local trainer, reading clinical journals to stay up with best practices in my field, traveling to interesting places with our kids, and going to dinner out at some of my favorite spots in Jacksonville.
Favorite sport and sports team?
I love watching college football and basketball. I became a Gator fan when my daughter attended UF during the era of Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. I’d never been to games where there was so much enthusiasm – and orange and blue. I also enjoy attending The Players Championship every year. And, of course, go Jags.