This week’s organizer spotlight features Melissa Winker (candidate for State Assembly District 38) and Tom Palzewicz (candidate for the 5th Congressional District):

1) What have you learned from organizing “fails?”

Melissa: Being a candidate requires an enormous personal commitment of time and self-reflection. I have an amazing campaign cabinet, and my leadership “fail” surfaced earlier this year, when it was brought to my attention that I was not living up to the standard of appreciating the needs of others. We held a special check-in to revisit expectations and emerged with fresh commitments to the hard work ahead. I learned again that being in a good place with your teammates is everything. Amazing people will work hard for a shared mission.

Tom: I have learned to recognize that patience is necessary to grow, and sometimes things don’t work the way you want but usually work for what is best for all involved. I took this lesson as I built my first campaign. We started off down 40 points, we worked hard and smart but still lost by 24 points. While this felt discouraging, we knew we could take those lessons learned and run again, and here we are only down by 10 points. Patience and persistence will bring results.

2) What sustains you? Where do you get the energy to keep going with the work?

Melissa: My children sustain me—my own and those whom I’ve taught over the decades. My heart breaks when I see the willful disregard for what is morally right. Everything seems to be at risk: democracy, community health, and our national integrity. I try to squeeze every extra minute out of my day: researching the issues, reaching out to others, communicating with my team, and writing thank you notes! I am energized by engaging with residents and learning about their lives.

Tom: Family means everything to me. I have been married to my amazing wife Terri for over thirty years. We have three fantastic children and two dogs. People motivate me: I love engaging with local business owners and am energized when I can help them find success. Terri and I not only campaign together but work in our own small business together. We eventually figured out how to stay passionate and committed while also making time for ourselves and our family. Taking care of yourself in order to have the ability to help as many others as possible is a lifelong lesson.

3) What’s motivating you with this upcoming election?

Melissa: This is an historic election where our values are on the line. I have a vision for what can be accomplished by honest, hardworking representatives: to protect the environment, address voter suppression, demand strong public education support, and unite the state with honest conversations that focus on solving problems. I am motivated by the pressing themes that come from conversations with my neighbors who are struggling to get by, or have anxiety about gun violence, or their children’s future.

Tom: Our country is lacking vision. We are stuck, unable to move forward because of so much division and discord. I want to demonstrate that integrity, positivity, and unity can and should still be key in our government. Ultimately, we are all friends, neighbors, and family and we can find ways to agree on solutions rather than arguing over problems. Solving our climate crisis, failing healthcare system, and narrowing income inequality will help to transform our country and move us forward for the benefit of all.