The November 2018 midterm elections produced monumental firsts and great successes, specifically for women in politics: many states elected their first woman senator or congresswoman, the state of New York elected the youngest woman to serve in Congress, Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim woman elected to Congress—the list goes on and on. However, the state of Utah had one major loss. Representative Becky Edwards stepped down from ten years of service in the Utah House of Representatives. As the longest serving Republican woman currently in the legislature, Rep. Edwards has been a voice of bipartisanship and leadership and has blazed the trail for women in the state. Before she says goodbye to public service (for now) and heads out on a senior couple mission to Samoa, we asked her for few thoughts about her service.
What have been your proudest moments from your 10 years on the Hill?
1. My campaign slogan was, “Representation for Real” and that was real. I’ve upped the game in terms of engagement with my constituents. I feel like the people of District 20 are more involved, more educated, more aware, more interested, than they were 10 years ago and that was always a big priority of mine.
2. Having an opportunity to lead out on issues that I feel are really important. For example: the family economic prosperity package of bills from the Women in the Economy Commission. I spent a lot of time on issues related to families and women, and they all aligned themselves over the past several years and came to a head last year. I loved seeing, for the first time, this umbrella of family issues being presented all together and opening a realm of understanding and awareness of how important these issues are and how many different lenses you can look at them through. Did all these bills pass? No. But when they do, and they will pass, our entire team should feel ownership of that.
3. I’m really proud of how I represented my constituents. I feel proud of the fact that I really stuck to some of my core principles about civic dialogue being respectful and inclusive, and being intentional about including all voices in the public square. Part of this was also really to not shy away from hard issues. I can’t tell you how many times we thought our bills or resolutions were going to die, but we would buckle up and work even harder to bring them forward.
What was your favorite issue to work on?
Environmental issues. I ran several bills on air quality, climate change, and I don’t think I had an issue I worked on where I had more distinctly separate camps than on this issue. It was exhilarating to do what a lot of people thought was the impossible. The impossible can be done, it just takes longer. That was fun to sit down with people who had been real foes on an issue and craft something that we could all feel good about and say, “okay, let’s get this done.” We took it to our 104 colleagues and we did it.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in politics?
My great-great-grandfather was a member of the Utah House as a Democrat from Cache County in 1896. I feel, in a very real way, that legacy of his. I have another ancestor who was the Mayor of Lehi back in the day, who held elected office. But as a woman, I’m able to represent in a way that couldn’t have happened in a different time perhaps. There’s a real familial connection to it. It also just makes me smile every time I’m speaking to a girl scout group or a Young Women’s group and there’s a little girl in the group who sees that they could do this. It is a door opener for people and I love that. I love that I get to represent possibilities for girls and women.
Why do you think we need more women in political office?
It validates the experiences of half our population. When you look around a table and look for people that are noticeably absent, women’s experiences are unique in the way that men’s experiences are unique in the same way that people of color’s experiences are unique. When you include women, whether in the corporate world or the political world or community, your ability to see a complete picture, a whole picture, makes your work and your effectiveness grow by leaps and bounds.
If you could give one piece of political advice to college students, what would it be?
Never lose faith in the process. Never lose hope in the idea or the belief that you can make a difference. And never give up making your voice heard.
Latest posts by Jayne Edwards (see all)
- How Fashion Has Become the Latest Political F-word - March 12, 2019
- “Never lose hope in the idea or the belief that you can make a difference.” - February 27, 2019
- Politicians and the Twitter Train - February 14, 2019
- There is a Place for You Here - December 10, 2018