My parents were both born in wartime Australia in 1944. My mother in Casino, a small town in New South Wales, and my father in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, where my brother and I were also raised. My father was one of five children in a working poor family. His father worked for the railroads, as did one of his older brothers. After dropping out of school at Year 8, my father decided to become a boilermaker, attaining an apprenticeship with a local structural steel fabrication company.
When I was in high school, my father quit his secure job, and decided to take a chance with going into business for himself. My mother was a bookkeeper, so she worked with him on a part-time basis, as they began the task of building a successful steel fabrication business together. Looking back, I can now see that my parents did not have to be concerned with things like health care or college costs for their children when making this decision to take a risk with their livelihoods, as these things were provided to us in our country. Still, I distinctly remember this moment in my childhood. I remember the unknown, I remember the concern over whether they would be successful or not. But, in Australia, the barriers to owning your own business have been reduced due to the social safety net and services that the public sector provides to its people. I was taught and shown by my parents that upward mobility for those who are prepared to work hard was alive and well in Australia.
I attended my local Catholic primary school, St Catherine’s, and then went on to high school at MacKillop College, an all-girl’s school in Brisbane, graduating in 1985. I then attended Queensland University of Technology, acquiring a Business degree with a major in Accounting. My first job out of college was in public accounting, where I attained my Chartered Accounting designation (equivalent to a CPA in the USA), working in tax, audit and insolvency.
Down Under Goes Up Over
In 1994, after having spent a few years living in Sydney and working in corporate accounting, I decided to spread my wings by heading overseas to take advantage of the offer that all Commonwealth countries extend to each other – the right to live and work for a short period of time in their country, in order to explore and learn more about each other’s societies and all of their differences and similarities. My plan was to head to Canada for 12 months. So off I went, all alone, with just a bag on my back, at the tender age of 25. I ended up going to the US first, via Chicago, where my future husband, who I had met previously in Australia years before, picked me up for the five hour drive back to Xenia, Ohio, where my adventure began!
After two years away from my birth home, I was forced to decide – here or there?? So after making the very difficult decision to marry my husband, and move my entire life to the other side of the world, we nurtured and grew JCL Equipment Co Inc. together into a thriving and productive small business. We manufactured line striping equipment – from small walk-behind models for parking lots, to large truck-mounted units for highway application. It was a whole new world for me – not only did I have no experience in this field, I also didn’t understand the non-metric measurements that became part of my everyday work life!
Bit by little bit, I fell in love with America. I loved the people, I loved the diversity, I loved the complex history of this great nation. People embraced me with open arms. I raised my three wonderful children here. Though it took some time, this love affair slowly gave way to an awareness of the rising injustices and economic inequality that existed around me. This was not something that I had experienced before. I was used to a government that was serious about enforcing the rules and protections for the well-being of workers, so that their rights as people would be protected from potential exploitation by greedy businesses. As the owner of my own business, with my own employees, I considered it my duty due to my upbringing, to provide them with a living wage, and enough benefits for them to live a life with dignity. I was shocked at how little benefits we had to provide, by law. No sick days, no paid maternal leave – all of these things were fought for, and made into law, by the unions decades ago in Australia, so it was an adjustment to understand my new country and the way it handled these matters here.
My husband and I ultimately separated, but our three beautiful children are the joy of both of our lives, and I’m grateful for the blessings these experiences have provided me. And now, I have chosen to stay here in America and raise my children as a co-parent with their father.
My political organizing exploded with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Within days of their story hitting the internet, a group had formed down at Courthouse Square in Dayton. So, down there I went, sign in one hand, megaphone in the other. This was a time of great personal transformation for me, as I sat and listened to people who have never had the privileges that I have been lucky enough to receive. My heart ached for them and their stories. The people who surrounded me were passionate and intelligent and awake to the 1% and their influence over us. I bonded with people whom I would have normally never crossed paths with. Many of the best friends I have right now are people I met at Occupy Dayton. As a group we worked hard to spread the message that unless we stand up, our democracy is going to be stolen by corporate interests completely. And that is what we are facing right now. Our voices have been drowned out by concentrated power and money.
Since November of 2016, I have focused my energies and attention on the Greene County Commissioners weekly meeting. I have seen what they do, how they do it, and who they favor. I have seen the impact that state cutbacks have on our county, and I see how our local governments have to increase our property and sales taxes in order to make up for the shortfall. I have questioned their financial and moral choices regularly from the public podium, and I have encouraged others to join me. And I have watched them enact new guidelines in an attempt to shut down citizen questions in a public setting. Seeing that this Board of Commissioners did not represent my values of dignity, respect and compassion for those that they are supposed to serve has given me the motivation to step up and lead in a way that empowers and includes others.
Professionally, my other entrepreneurial ventures have included running The Reiki Room of Dayton, a wellness center that has helped hundreds of people to learn how to utilize time tested techniques for controlling stress and providing physical relief, so that they may lead more productive and meaningful lives. I also owned and operated Zetland Street, a farm to table full-service restaurant that focused on using local agriculture exclusively. I have years of experience in mixing business practices and market principles with my values and making it work.
I have been a community organizer and politically active for nearly a decade here in the Miami Valley. My desire to see justice across many fields – social, economic, racial, environmental – is what drives me to be part of the movement to put people who care about other people into elected office. I want to see laws made real that give people the chance to work their way towards prosperity, much like my parents did. We need good paying jobs, access to health care and a strong education system. Our country and our state need a new direction. We need to put people first. I am prepared to work hard for that new direction – a direction that gives people the right to live a life with dignity.
Snapshot of Experiences
Human trafficking awareness work, including trip to Tijuana to visit orphanages that helped children of prostitutes;
Chairperson – Risk Taking Mission and Service Ministry at Bellbrook United Methodist Church – implemented environmental changes, started Adopt a Highway program, served meals at St Paul’s, volunteered at Family Resource Center, helped families in need over the holidays, 2009-2011
Treasurer, Sugarcreek Schools PTO, 2009-2010
Treasurer, Occupy Dayton, 2011-2012
Organizer, March Against Monsanto, 2012-2017
Founder, Greene County Progressives, 2016 -Current
High School – Mackillop College, Brisbane, Australia, 1985
Bachelor of Business – Accounting – Queensland University of Technology, 1988
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia – (CPA equivalent), 1992
General Manager/Owner – JCL Equipment Co Inc. , 1996-2011
Owner/Teacher – The Reiki Room of Dayton, 2011-2017