Get to Know the 24%: Representative Melissa Sargent
On any given day, there is plenty of work for Wisconsin Representative Melissa Sargent. Currently, she’s focused on income inequality. “People are working harder and longer but for less wages…” Sargent said. Never losing sight of what’s important, Representative Sargent has focused her sights on protecting children, families, and public lands while working to establish good working relationships with public and private sectors. However, she admits it has not been easy. Speaking to the inability to pass legislation, Representative Sargent said, “If I could change one thing about politics in order to address [partisan] gridlock, it would be the money in politics.”
However, partisan gridlock does not demotivate her from urging women to run for elected office. Citing the importance of organizations like Women In Government (WIG), Representative Sargent spoke to the importance of motivating women and giving them the tools they need to succeed. “Women are always the ones making stuff happen…” she said. When asked what needs to be done to get more women in office, she added that women already in elected office should mentor other women and bring them to the top with them.
Citing the statistic that women have to be asked on average about 7 times before they run for office, Representative Sargent revealed that she probably had to be asked more than that. When her kids came home bemoaning community service, she taught them a lesson on the importance of civic duty. In that instance, she realized it was time for her to step up to the plate too, but in another way. “My kids are the ones who motivated me to run for office,” she added.
At the end of our conversation, Representative Sargent told me that the best advice she ever received was “…to be open” and offer solutions to problems instead of complaining. As she talked about the joy she gets from helping people solve problems, her passion shined through the example she sets for those in her community. When I asked her what she is looking forward to the most, Representative Sargent mentioned working across the aisle and bringing ideas back from fellow legislators in other states. Never one to miss a beat, she facilitated the Annie E. Casey Foundation task force work a couple of weeks ago for WIG. However, the idea of her party being in the majority is not lost on her either. Whatever happens, Wisconsin has a fierce champion in Representative Sargent.
About the Author
Corey Barton joined Women in Government as a Healthcare Policy Fellow in September 2015. He graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. In the past, Corey worked as a political fundraising consultant for a private firm. He also worked in a support role to the CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Policy at The Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University with the intent of graduating in May 2017.
About Future WIG
Women In Government supports women of all ages in leadership roles, and is working hard to ensure that young women are given the resources and mentorship they need in order to achieve their goals. This program takes place at WIG Regional conferences, where WIG asks women state legislators and leaders in the private sector to encourage young women across the country to pursue leadership roles. This program is made possible by Southwest Airlines.