In the third session of NFIB’s members-only “Path to Public Service” program, NFIB members discuss their experiences running for office.
On Oct. 28, NFIB members State Rep. Andrew Barkis, owner of Hometown Property Management and Wendy Traub, who runs Hemlock Directional Boring Inc. discussed their experiences running for office and what they learned. NFIB’s Senior National Political Director Sharon Sussin facilitated the discussion alongside Nancy Bocskor, a civic engagement and democracy coach, during NFIB’s third Path to Public Service virtual event for NFIB members. The event focused on the process of running for office and things small business owners should consider before deciding to become a candidate. The session is now available for all NFIB members to watch on-demand.
“There are so many different ways that you, small business owners, can make your voice heard in the political process,” Sharon explained. “Some don’t take much time or commitment at all; some take a whole lot.”
Andrew is currently serving in the Washington House of Representatives. His first exposure to holding elected office was while participating in American Legion Boys State as a junior in high school, an experience that motivated him to seek public office later in his life. He has been an NFIB member since 2005 and became involved in the Leadership Council after joining.
“Opportunities started to present themselves, and I was asked to run for county commissioner in 2012,” Andrew said. “This is a big county, Thurston County, and there are a lot of issues affecting small business and development. So I mounted a campaign…and came that close to beating her [a 30-year incumbent]. It was such a great experience even in losing in the first foray into campaigning and what it takes, and all the different things in the community and really laid the bedrock for the future for me.
Andrew would later earn an appointment to his current seat in the Washington House of Representatives and win (re)election in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Andrew encouraged small business owners to consider running for office, even though it is not always easy. It can be easier to get started since small business owners already have a local network of people they interact with through their business.
Andrew explained his process when questioning whether he was ready to run. “You have to figure out where you’re at in life. It’s a big commitment. You have to weigh out what that commitment is going to do, and how it’s going to affect you. You also have to think about your family.”
Wendy has been an NFIB member since 2012. “NFIB is the voice of small business,” Wendy explained. “They’re in every area of government, lobbying for the benefits of small business on a daily basis. It was very easy to support the organization.”
Wendy lives in Connecticut and is currently the chair of the NFIB CT Leadership Council. She ran for the state legislature in 2010 and 2012, and remains a strong and active small business advocate at the State House. “Door knocking was the most important part of our campaign because we were a small district,” Wendy said. “[Voters] want to know that their opinion, or their voice is important and that you’re listening to them.”
Andrew and Wendy agreed that campaigning can be a lot of work, and it does take time. While it can be difficult, they both still encouraged this path to public service.
“If you’re considering it, you’ve already taken that one step for it,” Wendy said. “I can’t encourage it enough. We need more NFIB members, we need more business owners to speak on our behalf. Start by considering it…do your research as to how you can formulate your plan.”
NFIB members have access to all three Path to Public Service on-demand videos here. If you have any questions or want to learn more, please reach out to NFIB Regional Political Manager Matthew Woolley at [email protected].