At the end of 2016, I became involved with the union, thanks to longtime IBEW 1245 Organizing Steward Steve Marcotte. He never gave up on recruiting me to be an Organizing Steward, and he always said that I would be good at it. At first, I was unsure if it would be something I would be good at, since it seemed so different from what I had done before. But I enjoy speaking to people and learning new things, so I went ahead and met Steve and a few other Organizing Stewards at the Capitol. The plan that day was to do visits with members of the Senate and the Assembly, and it required talking with them about a bill we were supporting. This gave me the opportunity to meet a few Senators and members of the Assembly. I also got to go speak with Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who I know personally, as she is from my town, Winters. This is when I realized I had a passion for politics, and that it was something I wanted to continue doing.
I became an Organizing Steward in 2017 and I did all my work with the union at the Capitol. As time progressed, I became more passionate about my work with IBEW 1245. At the same time, I started volunteering more in my daughter’s elementary school and committees. Towards the end of 2018, I realized the schools needed some change, and it really opened my eyes to be even more involved.
At the beginning of 2019, I found out that virtually anybody can be on the School Board for the District; it was simply a matter of being voted in to that position if it was open. I investigated it further and learned that everyone on the Board at that time had been there for close to 10 years, and they’ve always retained their positions because nobody ran against them. I also discovered that the School Board Trustee for my specific area would be termed out in 2022. That’s when I decided I wanted to run for that position when it was time. I started asking around, talking to a few people to see what they thought of the idea. IBEW 1245 staffers Rene Cruz Martinez, Fred Ross and Hunter Stern all agreed and encouraged me to do it. I also asked Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry on her thoughts, and she said with excitement, “YES!”
The last time I was at the Capitol, Fred Ross brought up the subject of me running for the school board to Assemblymen Joaquin Arambula. His response was that he liked that I was a young woman interested in being in politics. This motivated me to start planning a bit on what my game plan would be to run.
On January 16, 2020, Michael Olivas, the Winters Joint Unified School Board Trustee for Area 3, resigned from office. In that moment, I was a bit shocked, because that is my area and the seat I was considering running for — but it was much sooner than I had anticipated. I had a lot of support from my former teachers and staff, telling me that that this was still a great time to apply, so without further hesitation, I made the decision to go ahead and submit my application.
When a Trustee resigns, the remaining board members interview the candidates and appoint a new trustee to finish out the term. I was called in to interview on March 5, 2020, as one of three candidates vying for the position. My interview was in front of the four board members and the superintendent, and it was open to the public. After the interview, I witnessed the vote — and I won by a vote of 3-1, making me the youngest board member to ever serve on the board.
That same night at 6pm I was sworn in as the new Winters Joint Unified School Board Trustee for Area 3. I started working that very evening, and I am super excited for the opportunity!
–Stephanie Chavez, former IBEW 1245 organizing steward