Advice for Newly Elected State Legislators from LEE Member, Representative Takashi Ohno | Leadership for Educational Equity Skip to main content

Advice for Newly Elected State Legislators from LEE Member, Representative Takashi Ohno

This post is part of our Elected Leader FAQ guidance for newly elected leaders.

You’ve been elected to state office  – congratulations! Now that the campaigning is over and the election is done, it’s time to start governing. However, that task can seem daunting and it may be difficult to know where to start. 

Fortunately, LEE has a network of nearly 30 elected state officials around the country to draw upon for advice. In this post, Representative Takashi Ohno, who was elected to the Hawaii state house in 2012, reflects on his experience as a state elected official and provides three lessons learned on how to become an effective leader. 

Three tips on how to become an effective state official from Rep. Takashi Ohno:

  1. Become an expert. Get to know one part of state policy or school regulation really, really well. You’ll become an expert and your colleagues will look to you for advice in that area. It’s a great way to make a mark quickly. 
  2. Take every meeting possible. As an elected member you have the opportunity to grow your network really fast. You have access to people who you frankly didn’t have access to before as a civilian. Take those meetings and expand your network in your realm of responsibility. 
  3. Get to know your colleagues. Some people come into office with a list of preconceived notions. The truth is, as a newly elected member you have very little power to kill a bill and you have an uphill battle to get something passed into law. In other words, you have little to gain by making enemies early on. Remember, eventually power is given to you by earning the trust and respect of your colleagues. If they support you in a run for leadership or as a committee chair, then you’ll have the ability to stop bad ideas and push the good ones all the way to the finish line. 


  • What’s one area in education policy – finance, social-emotional learning, discipline, etc. – or an area that intersects with education issues – housing, health, etc. – that you want to become an expert in?  
  • Develop a list of colleagues and government officials that you want to have meetings with and then reach out to schedule them. 
  • What is your vision and goals for your time in office? How can LEE support you in the short-term? Long-term? 

Explore how to set yourself up for success as an elected leader.

Related Articles