Josie Raymond represents District 31 in the Kentucky State House. In January 2020, she became a mother for the third time and became the first state representative in Kentucky to give birth while serving in office.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with the LEE community! What does motherhood mean to you & how is that shaping your leadership?
It’s a mix between complete existential bliss and finding a banana peel behind the couch cushions. Of course I want the world to be better and fairer for future generations, for everyone, but I also need to be able to look at my kids at the dinner table every night and tell them I did my best.
What is the most important thing you’d like to teach your children?
You are never without power, whether you mess up your coloring sheet or fight for equal pay. It is easy to feel powerless as a member of a marginalized group or a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives’ superminority. But we have incredible privilege and talents and drive, and we must be resourceful. Also, don’t ask me where anything is.
What challenges did you face when you became an elected leader?
I was a concerned citizen who put my name on the ballot. I then found out how rare that is. Initially I was challenging an incumbent in a primary, a controversial move. There was an extremely steep learning curve not only in how to run a campaign (I ran my own, another no-no) but in navigating political circles. In office, I found another steep learning curve in finding my path to be an effective legislator, especially as a member of the minority party.
What are some of the policies that you want/hope to change?
My top legislative priority is bringing pre-K to all three and four-year-olds in Kentucky. We have decades of data showing how it helps kids, and nobody is denying that, so I spend most of my pitch on what else universal access will do. It will grow and professionalize the mostly-female, mostly-underpaid field of early childhood educators. It will increase workforce participation overnight, especially for mothers of young children. It will build soft skills in the workforce of 20 years from now. It is the silverest bullet we have to reduce generational poverty.
What does it mean to young girls in your community to see women serving in positions of elected leadership?
This is the most humbling part for me. Growing up, politicians felt like another species to me. Now lots of little girls know their State Representative and call me by my first name. I do as many student-centered events as I’m invited to. If they can see it, they can be it. It’s also a powerful image for my own kids, a daughter who is 6, a son who is 4, and a new baby girl. My husband and I can tell them that women can be powerful and men can cook, or they can just watch us.
How do you want the future to look for your children & what do you see as your role in achieving this vision?
I hope that by the time they’re grown, they’re not fighting for equal pay, the right to organize, paid sick and family leave, a higher minimum wage, healthcare for all, childcare for all, and higher education that actually levels the playing field and not living in a world where income inequality dictates everything. We better hurry, though.
What's your advice to other prospective parents interested in the life of elected leadership?
If you feel an inclination to run for office, at this time of national crisis, that is now an obligation. A few things I learned that helped me: a lot of good can come from running and losing, whether that’s raising issues, holding people accountable, or developing deep bonds with your neighbors. And with the right support, you can run the best race your district has ever seen. Don’t worry too much about your kids. It has been very cool to hear that my kindergartener was showing her classmates Donald Trump’s wall with Doritos and telling them about waiting on results from the Iowa caucuses. You’ll miss bedtime sometimes, but you’ll be giving them an incredible civics education.
How have you felt the impact of LEE & the SparkLeadership community’s support in running for/serving in office?
LEE and SparkLeadership have been absolutely instrumental for me. From learning how to tell my story to organizing to campaigning and now envisioning effective leadership, I have always been bolstered by the resources and the incredible staff at LEE. Receiving donor support is another energizing way of knowing that I’m not alone in the fight for educational equity.
*The above interview has been transcribed and is in subjects' own words, with minor edits for clarity or brevity.
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