Staying true to yourself while running and in office

DELEGATE LASHRECSE AIRD

Delegate Lashrecse Aird, 30, represents Virginia’s 63rd district. She is the youngest woman to be voted into the House of Delegates, but certainly not the least experienced. Well before running for office, Delegate Aird volunteered in her community and for others’ campaigns. When she received news of the vacant seat, Delegate Aird did not immediately see herself in that position. It wasn’t until after the phone kept ringing with friends and colleagues encouraging her to run that she gave it some thought. Check out her advice, tips, and strategies below!

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN BEFORE DECIDING TO RUN FOR OFFICE?

For me it comes down to relationships and resources. I’m not a native of the localities that I represent and in smaller close knit communities it’s all about who you know. It’s all about your kin. My community has a very senior population - people who have been in the city or the region their entire lives - and there were people who, when I was a student and just learning my way, exposed me to a lot of things that spoke to the essence and history of the area and encouraged me by saying that I would be great one day and giving advice on how to get there.

When I decided to run, these were some of the same people saying that I was too young. So from a relationships standpoint, if I had known that my running wasn’t dependent on those people, if I was doing it for the right reason, I wouldn’t have been so emotionally drained throughout the process. As a young person, and someone who respects her elders, you look to them for support and affirmation, and when they’re not there you’re perplexed and don’t understand why. But they have come along.

In terms of resources, you need to have a full grasp of how much it costs to run an effective campaign. If I had been prepared for being more comfortable asking people for money, that would have strengthened my campaign. In the end, I can feel confident that I got $5 here, $10 and $20 there. People were willing to give what they had, but if I was comfortable asking folks with the big dollars, it might not have required me to ask those who weren’t able to give.

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Now that she's in office, one of the biggest challenges Delegate Aird is facing is the slow pace, “You have to have patience.” She is also well aware of the age difference between herself and most of her colleagues, and while it is no issue for her, Delegate Aird has had to be strategic about building her relationships. To get through, Aird recommends putting people first. "If you understand what makes a person operate, you know how to have them as allies so they’ll keep you in mind, which may take swallowing your pride and being humble. Consistently demonstrate your way and a certain caliber to allow your reputation to speak for itself.” 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT TAKING THE NEXT STEP TO RUN? 

1. Just be hungry for everything. Get involved in as much as you can. Be available to as many opportunities that you can. Don’t limit yourself even if it's a lower level position. Build the body of work. The political circles are small! Jump in and make yourself known. Volunteer and do the grunt work, but remain humble. Start doing the work now before it’s time to step up so you have time to make the mistakes and learn from them.

2. Try to deeply learn about yourself, your passions, and what will drive you. The work takes energy and sacrifice, so educate yourself about your community needs. What would make the impact and change they seek? Know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth. 

3. The rest is grassroots. Being humble allows you to get to the place and opportunity where you don’t compromise yourself and burn bridges. You can’t do any of this alone. In politics, and government in general, you’re only as successful as your network, people have to support you.