Meet a Matriot: Mandy Jennings

1. You initially learned about The Matriots at a fall house party. Can you share why you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is something you support?  The “ME TOO” movement in recent years really opened my eyes to the entrenched cultural and professional restrictions women are still facing.  Thinking I was in the modern age and not under the same prejudices as our mothers, I didn’t realize how much further women had to go to obtain equality in social standing and in politics, particularly.  Hearing how less than half of our state is represented by women, I was moved to join the group to help get more of us in office.  Women are affected by so many of the decisions made in government, we need to have a voice to talk about issues unique to us and those issues that would benefit from our diverse perspectives.  It is important for us to get involved and support each other

2. You are a historian by training and profession. Are there stories you’ve researched that amplify for you the mission of The Matriots? I was always inspired by the history of Anne Hutchinson.  Before the women’s liberation movement of 1973 and the larger women’s suffrage movement of 1840-1920s – there were the early reformers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s.  Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan who practiced church meetings in her home with other women.  She believed a personal connection with God could be attained by all and that anyone had the ability to go to heaven, regardless of your gender or position in society.  These ideas were against the ideals of the Puritans, so she was placed under arrest for heresy and sedition. She was excommunicated from the church and she fled to Providence, Rhode Island – a place of refuge for people of other religions and beliefs different from the Puritan worldview.

As a student learning about Hutchinson, I keyed in on one of the main problems the Puritans had with her – that she organized meetings with other women to share in worship and discourse over their own spirituality.  It frightened me to think that there was once a day when women could not meet and share their own thoughts.  Anne risked her life every time she called a meeting of women together.

Now – here we are – The Matriots – a group of women who can gather together and have the freedom to share ideas and express personal opinions and thoughts.  We are continuing a legacy that women like Anne Hutchinson set into motion for us. Let’s respect the past and continue moving forward to release the restrictions that still hold us bound to old stereotypes and years of social conditioning.

3. Tell us about your community-building activities in Zanesville. We understand you’ve recently been working to revitalize your historic community. I was elected the Vice-President of a newly founded community group called the Friends of Putnam.  Putnam refers to the oldest historic district in Zanesville, Ohio.  The area has been ravaged by poverty, homelessness and now the opioid crisis has hit the town extremely hard.  We understand that there are many solutions we have to take in combating the complicated issues of our neighborhood.  One solution we are trying is the economic revitalization of the area so we can bring in new local businesses and promote job growth.  At the same time, we are starting street and home beautification projects to show our citizens that we care about our community and want to make it better.  Appalachian towns are hit hard with high poverty levels, low high school graduation rates, and a lack of jobs for educated individuals. I realize it will take time and it will take work on all fronts.  I don’t want to find a quick fix – I want to combat the problem at its root.  The first step we are taking is to build pride in our community and create jobs for our people.  

4. Before you took up a volunteer role as community-builder, did you look to mentors or were any particular women in office an inspiration? When I decided to do something about helping my community, my first thought was to reach out to an historic preservationist I met when I was fresh from college – Nancy Recchie. I met Nancy when I was at my first job at Wayne National Forest as an archaeologist. She was working on historic revitalization projects in collaboration with the Forest Service.   She made an impression on me when I was young.  She had a positivity, energy and vision that was inspiring.  Now, years later, the memory of her came to me when I thought about how I was going to start rebuilding my little historic neighborhood. I met back up with her recently to ask for her mentorship.  Her devotion to helping other women move up and forward is much appreciated and admired.

5. Now for something fun: You live in Zanesville and work in Columbus. Tell us how you spend that time on the road each day. My commute time can be anywhere from 50 – 90 minutes.  During that time, I listen to 1980s pop music on satellite radio.  The music makes me happy because it reminds me of my relationship with my sister.  My sister was 10 years older than me, so when I was a little girl in the early 1980s, she was going through her teen years and exposed me to all the pop culture of the time.  I idolized my sister and followed her around everywhere. The music gives me fond memories of her and our time together.

Meet The Matriots All-In Members

In the July edition of The Hive, Sally Crane Cox introduced us to Kitty & Dick Rosenthal of Cincinnati.  Kitty & Dick were our first members to max out on The Matriots. Ohio law sets a defined maximum annual gift that a PAC can accept from a single donor at $13,292.35.

The Rosenthals didn’t just say yes to go all in for a single year, they said “we want to do this for the Matriots for three years in a row!”

And in this month’s Hive, we introduce you to the NEXT two Ohio families making the same commitment: Sally Crane Cox & Cary Cox and Carol Andreae & Jim Garland.

Sally and Carol were both founders of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio almost two decades ago. Sally is among the six women who returned from the Women’s March in 2017 ready to take action – action that eventually became The Matriots PAC!

Carol & Jim on a recent trip to Egypt
Cary & Sally with son Cameron and daughter-in-law Agathe

“After engaging for a time in the process of promoting women’s political leadership through The Matriots PAC, it became clear that achieving gender equity was not going to be a short-term goal,” Sally said. “It will take dollars and diligence to develop a deep bench of qualified candidates who share our values and can run viable campaigns.”

For Carol, this investment is the next iteration of work to put more women at all kinds of tables of power.

“With women in leadership roles, different issues get attention – childcare, infant and maternal mortality, early childhood education, for example, issues which affect the whole community, but are often relegated to being ‘women’s issues’ and less worthy of attention,” Carol said. “From my experiences with other women’s organizations, I’ve learned that women often have the solutions to community problems, but don’t have the resources, nor the influence to implement them. Historically, when there is investment in women, the community prospers.”

That’s exactly what The Matriots are working to do: elect more Ohio women to public office who will promote a healthy economy in which women can thrive and prosper.

“Early on, we were struck by the fact that the Matriots’ candidates appeared to be motivated to run for office not to seek power or stature, but to advance policies that positively impact women and their families,” Sally said.

“Obviously, the realization of the need to elect more women has been a powerful motivator for many people, men as well as women,” Carol said. “The success of the Matriots in its few years of existence has been incredible. With more support available for the candidates, more women have been willing to step up and run for office.”

And we’re proud our members are women AND men, Ohio residents AND those out of state, and importantly people of ALL political stripes. Speaking on behalf of Cary and herself, Sally said, “We think it is really inspiring the number of women and men who identify as cultural conservatives who have joined the Matriots PAC and who recognize that the Matriots’ mission of promoting women’s economic independence benefits society as a whole. In order to be successful in our goal of equal-gender representation, we will need support across the ideological spectrum. And at this time of extreme partisan divide, a focus on making our democracy truly representative, and of choosing shared values over partisan labels, is not only brave but smart.”

The Matriots doesn’t intend to let these three families stand alone on our list of All In contributors. The sustainability of this organization – our ability to invest in female candidates in the future; and ESPECIALLY in next year’s critical 2020 races – relies on gifts that guarantee our financial viability.

As Carol recently told a blogger for the Women’s Funding network: “I would say to any donor: by letting it be known that you are giving money to support an issue – whether it’s $100 or $1,000,000- you are taking a stand and saying this issue is important and you are making a difference.”

Take that thought into your holiday. Think about what female leadership means to you; and whether this is a cause for which you want to stretch. Join us. Tell a friend. Increase your gift. This is how we build the war chest for 2020 and beyond.

Meet a Matriot: Valerie McKitrick

1.In addition to being a Matriots-endorsed candidate you also recently became a Class of 2019 Founding Member. How did you learn about The Matriots and what inspired you to become a Founding Member? I learned about the Matriots from my State Representative, Tavia Galonski. I was inspired to become a founding member because I appreciated the support from the Matriots, and I want to be part of an organization that is comprised of strong women, supporting strong women, and working to get them elected!

2.Valerie, you are a Class of 2019 Matriots-endorsed candidate who recently won your campaign! What did The Matriots endorsement mean to you and your campaign? Besides the critical financial support, the endorsement meant the backing of women from all walks of life, some who were also candidates, but others who just want to see the candidates succeed. That’s powerful: Women coming together to promote women!

3.As an Akron Board of Education Member-elect why do you think it is important to have more female representation in political office? And how do you suggest that young women in particular get more involved in their communities? If women aren’t represented in political office our political needs aren’t going to be addressed and our political rights are going to be further eroded. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu!”

I suggest that young women start now to get more involved. They can start with student government, school organizations or clubs, or community groups. Whatever they are passionate about, there is a group or organization that will suit them. Whatever their interests, find a group and get involved. Don’t be content to sit back and think someone else will take care of things.

4.Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state! My favorite thing to do in Ohio is wander the Towpath Trail, particularly as it wends through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Be it on foot or bike, no matter the season, there is nothing like a day on the trails!

The Matriots Say ‘Changing The Conversation:’ I Took That Challenge



With the General Election less than a month away, and early voting already under way, I think I speak on behalf of my fellow candidates when I say that last night was a needed break from campaigning to just be in fellowship with like-minded people and feel and share support.

I am so proud of my Matriots endorsement as I seek a seat on the Bexley Board of Education.

But before I was a Class of 2019 Candidate, I was an original Founding Member. I sat in a friend’s living room in those very early days of the PAC and heard the founders’ pitch – we need more women running for and serving in elected offices all across Ohio.

It was easy for me to agree, and I made the decision to become a Matriots Founding Member. But as I sat with that message, I realized that the encouragement, opportunity gap-closing, and community of support that The Matriots brings to getting women into elected offices was exactly what the students in my district need, and that The Matriots were talking about me. I needed to run. I couldn’t wait for some other woman to step forward. It’s my time.

A growing body of evidence indicates that women’s political participation, specifically more women in elected office, results in women’s increased economic independence.

That’s an important part of why I joined, why I’m running, and why we all need to do our part to keep growing The Hive so we can reach our shared goal of 50% women in office in Ohio by 2028. Who can you ask to join us? What is your role in making the mission reality?


Victoria Powers, Founding Member & Endorsed 2019 Candidate

Meet a Matriot: Idotha Bootsie Neal

1.In 1991, you became the first black woman elected to Dayton’s city commission, and served there until 2004. Can you share with our members a little about that experience? As the first black woman to be elected to serve on the Dayton City Commission it was exciting as well as challenging. Early in my tenure I was often the only female and sometimes the only black in a room of key community stakeholders discussing and attempting to resolve critical issues facing the Dayton community and the Miami Valley region. Initially, I felt that my voice was not being heard and my perspective was not valued. The men would respectfully allow me to speak and then totally ignore my recommendations or concerns. I quickly learned that in order to be effective and respected in the male dominated arena it was imperative that I had to be thoroughly knowledgeable (even though oftentimes my colleagues were far less knowledgeable) and prepared to concisely discuss issues supported with facts grounded in business policies with the potential of long term profitability and not by emotions driven by social realities. Fortunately, I was not easily intimidated and was very confident in my abilities as a leader and definitely determined to provide valuable input which created a balance of perspectives in the decision making process. I worked hard and earned the respect of my colleagues, staff, business and community stakeholders.

As a female, as the first elected black woman, I felt a strong sense of responsibility and obligation to be the best public servant, the best elected official to serve our community. In my opinion, I sometimes experienced more scrutiny and criticism than my counterparts. I was quickly labeled the commissioner concerned about issues impacting children and families (which I proudly agree) however there was very little public acknowledgment that I was involved in and was a valuable broker for important development projects. I had to learn how to tell my own story. This was a very important lesson to learn which helped me to get re-elected.

It was a privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Dayton. I worked with a team of professional and political individuals who were competent, creative and progressive. We developed and began the implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan that laid the foundation for the economic revitalization of the urban core of our region. Our focus was rebuilding the business district with jobs, housing and amenities. We were committed to restoring and revitalizing our neighborhoods, and strengthening citizen participation. As an elected official, it was critically important to understand that the decisions we made would impact the Dayton community for generations to come.

2.You are a mentor to other women now running or considering running for office. Why do you think that it is important for younger people to invest in the political process? As a mentor, I want to inspire young people to get involved. I want to share my knowledge and experiences. I believe that there is value in what can be learned from my successes as well as my failures. It is extremely important for younger people to get involved and invest in the political process. I believe the political process develops the evolving legislative blueprint that governs educational and government institutions that impacts every aspect of our life and how we live, work and play. In my opinion, young people have the responsibility and obligation to continue to develop legislation that will protect our country, civil liberties, constitution, climate and freedoms. The political process is ‘our voice’ in our government. As future leaders, young people must develop the skills, capabilities and attributes that will help them to effectively lead in a diverse global environment.

3. You recently filled a room in Dayton with women you wanted to introduce to The Matriots mission. Why do you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is the solution to today’s political rancor? I am excited about the Matriots’ vision to support women to get elected. I strongly believe that it is very important to have more women in elected office. In my experiences, oftentimes, women bring a unique perspective to the decision making process. This balance of perspectives contributes to a comprehensive approach in the assessment of problems and the understanding of needs of residents and/or businesses. I believe that women in certain situations are greater risk takers, creative visionaries and are more willing to partner in a nonpartisan civil manner and work collectively to identify solutions to issues facing our communities, our economy and our country. I think women are more committed to public service and wanting to make a positive difference rather than seeking power or public recognition. Today’s political climate requires leaders who can be bold, conciliatory, focused to find long term solutions, that are not grounded in the ole’ boy network, for evolving contemporary challenges. I argue that women can successfully change the political paradigm, balance priorities and govern effectively to help communities to educationally and economically compete in a global climate.

4. By year’s end, The Matriots will have endorsed more than 100 candidates! Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work with Shenise Turner-Sloss and witness first hand her commitment to the Dayton community. I am inspired by Shenise Turner-Sloss who is a candidate running for the Dayton City Commission and is endorsed by The Matriots. She is an experienced competent capable individual with leadership abilities that is visionary and innovative. She previously worked for the City of Dayton and is knowledgeable about city government issues and challenges. In my opinion, there is still much critical work to do in the Dayton neighborhoods to improve the quality of housing stock, accessibility to diverse retail options and other services that support the needs of residents. I believe that Shenise Turner Sloss is the ‘right’ person to lead the charge to rebuild sustainable Dayton neighborhoods and challenge the current city elected officials and staff to focus on rebuilding our neighborhoods one block at a time. This effort will require the commitment of a leader like Shenise who will develop and implement a comprehensive collaborative plan approach that will attract private investment and state & federal financial resources for housing projects and small business development.

Shenise is an honest person with a high degree of integrity. As a commissioner, she will be a strong advocate for requiring transparency, accountability and clear processes in the development of legislation, funding and awarding contracts and demanding quality basic services for Dayton residents. Shenise Turner Sloss will be the consistent voice that will champion the needs that are in our neighborhoods and community business districts that are important to the redevelopment of the urban core.

Shenise cares about the education of our children, stability of Dayton’s families, safety in our community and creating an economic environment that will attract jobs that pay living wages. I am excited about her proposal that will bring diverse housing options to our neighborhoods and the renovation of the existing housing stock that will support current homeowners. She is adequately prepared to be that strong voice in the room in what is still a male dominated arena. Shenise Turner Sloss inspires me because of her community involvement, the personal and professional development that she has accomplished in preparation to become an elected official and her willingness to serve in today’s political rancor.

5. Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state! I love Dayton. I love history!!! Dayton is the birthplace of aviation, ‘where Orville & Wilbur Wright taught the world how to fly’ and it is the home of poet laureate Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American literary genius who used the power of the pen to confront the reality of social injustices in our country. We have an amazing Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park that consists of five sites that commemorates the contributions of Wilbur and Orville Wright and Paul Laurence Dunbar. There are several other interesting sites to visit in Dayton; Carillon Historical Park which tells Dayton’s rich innovation history, the Walk of Fame which celebrates other locals who have made major contributions to inventions, science, the arts, education, music, sports and business, Dayton VA founded in 1867, SunWatch Indian Archaeological Park, National Museum of the US Air Force and the Dayton Art Institute all of which are located in close proximity to each other. The tour of these sites are informative, fun and relaxing to visit and helps tourists to gain a greater appreciation of Dayton’s history and the contributions that helped to change the world and how we live, work and play. There are several quaint eateries that offer a variety of cuisines in the Oregon Historic District in downtown Dayton.

Meet a Matriot: Eva Raymond

1.You initially learned about The Matriots at a summer house party and before you walked out, you asked if you could invite some friends and hold one of your own.  Can you share with our members why you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is the solution to today’s political rancor, and why that moved you to not only join – but invite friends to join? Since the last election, many difficult topics have been brought into the forefront of national discourse. I don’t know about you, but I was tired of sitting around with my friends and talking about all the current issues in today’s political rancor and doing nothing about it.  After attending the house party in the summer, it was amazing how powerful the experience was being in a room with so many committed women and men. I knew I had to do something-especially with the upcoming election knocking on the door.  Women need to have more of a voice in what is going on in the world and on every level of candidacy.  These past few years have been maddening for many women, especially when it comes down to what we can and cannot do with our body.  We need women representing us, not a group of men deciding for us.  I knew immediately through conversations that I have had with friends, that they would be on board with The Matriots mission.

2. You are young professional working to raise money for Denison University. Why do you think that it is important for younger people to invest in the political process?  As a fundraiser, I always ask my donors what is most important to them and try to understand better what their passions are.  Now more than ever, our political climate is tremendously affecting not only our future, but the future of our children as well. What is more important than that?  This is something that should be easy for younger people to become passionate about.  Investing time to educate yourself on policies and supporting those that believe in the same mission is the first step in improving our future.

3. You spend a lot of time on the road for work. How do you stay connected to your community? And what initiatives are you excited about in the Columbus community? One of the great things about being on the road is getting the opportunity to meet a strong community of Denison University alumni that are passionate about many different initiatives within their own community throughout the US.  It allows me to have those important conversations and see how other cities are working through their issues and bring them home to Columbus. Recently, I have been talking with another new Matriots member, Chelsey Craig, about the new poverty plan that Franklin County just unveiled.  Changing the poverty, wage gaps, and racial inequalities are, in my opinion, what makes a city strong.  This is not something that will happen overnight, but with initiatives like this, we are on our way.   I am an Ohio native-Cincinnati for 18 years and Dayton for 3.5 years-but still pretty new to Columbus. I feel like there is still a lot of room to grow in this area.  I would love become more involved and to meet more engaged members of Matriots; if anyone would like to connect me to an initiative they are passionate about and would like to talk more about it.

4. By year’s end, The Matriots will have endorsed more than 100 candidates! Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?This was a very difficult question, because there are so many amazing women to choose from.  Being from Cincinnati and going through the public school system there, Carolyn Jones immediately stuck out to me.  Public schools have always struggled to get resources and levies passed to keep things like after-school extracurriculars in place.  I do not know where I would be without those extracurriculars and advanced course offerings.  It is wonderful to see her advocating for the Cincinnati public schools because education is key *hint: why I work in higher education.*  In addition, it is wonderful that Jones has background in mental health.  I think this is going to continue to become more prevalent in our youth and having someone with the capability to understand how to approach this is vital!

5. Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state! I am a die-hard Bobcat-OU oh YEA!  I love making it back to Court Street with my fellow Bobcats and exploring Hocking Hills.  Hocking Hills is a hidden gem within the hills of southern Ohio. If you have not been, I highly recommend.

Meet A Matriot: Shellee Fisher

1.You recently joined The Matriots PAC. How did you learn about The Matriots and what drew you to our work? As a Corporate Photographer, I saw an increasing presence of The Matriots. Although I am not a ‘political’ person, by way of my upbringing and my affiliations, I have been around game changers all of my life. My father was the first black prosecutor and judge in Dayton, Ohio, back in the ’50s and remained in office for 40 years. I photograph for Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and I am the City of Columbus’ and Mayor Ginther’s primary photographer. So I get to see up close and personal the sacrafices, the movements and the accomplishments of people for the people.

2. You work in City Hall and often have a camera pointed at some of the city’s biggest events. Can you share with our members what drew you to this work? My father and uncle were photography hobbyist. When I graduated from high school I wanted to go to photography school but my parents would not allow it. They said I had to get a “real” education. So, not until 12 years ago did I finally pursue my dream as a full-time professional photographer. As for being the City’s photographer, the opportunity began with Mayor Coleman. I have seen over the years the City’s good works in order to make Columbus the best place to live, work and raise a family.

3. You started your own business, Shellee Fisher Photography & Design, a dozen years ago and you had an office-supply business before that. Why do you think it is important to women entrepreneurs to have more female representation in political office? And how do you suggest that women business owners in particular get more involved in their communities? When I was a Xerox reseller, I was in an all-male environment. It was pretty lonely out there. I had breast cancer twice, divorced halfway through my first business and raised two beautiful children. Fortunately, I had a strong network. However, having more women in political office will ensure that women are continually uplifted and protected as equal and positive contributors to our communities. Plus, we have to be at the table to play at the table. Although I’m not actively involved in politics, showing up in support is essential.

4. The Matriots endorsed 34 women in 2018 and 9 running in May primary elections in 2019. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why? I am so inmpressed with (Columbus City Councilmember) Shayla Favor. I love her spirit and her commitment to the community. I see her everywhere and involved. I feel this is just the beginning of her impact on Columbus. She is a shining star.

5. Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state! I am a cyclist. The City’s bike trails are amazing! There are so many trails to cycle, walk or run around the city. They are pretty and well-kept and safe. I think trails are one of the signs of a healthy city.

The Buzz From Sally – July 2019

Dear Matriots,

While it may seem like a relatively quiet time politically, The Matriots PAC has been hard at work screening applicants for endorsement and, as important, attending to the organization’s long-term sustainability. We are so pleased to announce here two major developments on that front.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a couple who have become two of our newest members—and who have set a new standard of commitment to our goal of electing more Ohio women to public office. Kitty and Dick Rosenthal, who are well known in the Cincinnati area for their generosity, but are new to us, have each committed to be “all in” to The Matriots, by making a three-year combined pledge of $75,000, just shy of the maximum allowed by election law.

The Rosenthals came to our attention through our board member, Myrita Craig, who has worked tirelessly–and very successfully–to promote The Matriots in southwest Ohio. From hosting numerous gatherings for Matriots-endorsed candidates, to introducing the PAC to her network, Myrita has put her all in to our collective success. No celebration of Matriots work in Cincinnati would be complete without recognizing Myrita’s dedication.

The Rosenthals were early, strong supporters of The Matriots’ very first endorsed candidate, Kathleen Clyde, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for Ohio Secretary of State and was subsequently appointed Portage County Commissioner. The Rosenthals are deeply committed to women-friendly policies and are excited to join the work of The Matriots PAC to safeguard Ohio women’s human and civil rights through political representation.

Beyond the Rosenthals’ allegiance to our values, we are eager to celebrate their monetary contribution to the PAC because it demonstrates outstanding leadership. It can be challenging for any of us to compare our philanthropic giving, which carries tax benefits, to political contributions, which feel more transactional. But like philanthropy, political giving can be a strategic means of supporting positive societal change, only through policy. Matriots believe that female political leadership will lead to policies that benefit the majority of our population–our chief caregivers and consumers—and therefore families and society as a whole.

Also cause for celebration is another contribution to the PAC (also coming in from the Cincinnati area). Nikki Foster, who was one of our 2018 endorsed candidates, ran valiantly but unsuccessfully in an uphill race for Ohio House against a male incumbent. Because she put in an outstanding performance, winning 39% of the vote, Nikki is now a 2020 candidate for U.S. Congress in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District.

Election law required Nikki to close her local candidate committee account and she contributed the balance in her account–$419.98 – to The Matriots PAC, telling us she did so in honor and appreciation of our support and for those who will follow.

There really are no words for the loyalty and generosity of our endorsed candidates. Knowing that research shows they will have to work three times as hard as their male opponents, these women pour everything they have in to their campaigns. In Nikki’s case, her 2018 campaign coincided with her giving birth in September to her second child, a son who was born with a hole in his heart. This didn’t cause her to give up, it caused her to dig in. An Air Force Academy graduate with over 200 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nikki is now more committed than ever to ensuring that women and their families get the healthcare, education and other family-friendly policies they deserve.

Seeing the experiences of other families whose children were going through medical challenges prompted Foster to seek this second run for office. “We need to step up,” Foster told “There are other families, single mothers, who don’t have time to advocate for themselves. They’re too busy working. I feel like this is a calling.”

May this letter serve as a celebration of all of us who feel that female political leadership is a calling, whether that manifests as a run for office or a generous contribution to a candidate. Thank you to all of you who support The Matriots in all that you do!


Sally Crane Cox
chair, board of directors

Meet A Matriot: Darci Congrove

By day, she’s managing director of GBQ Partners and co-owner of the German Village Guest House, by night (or at least many nights!) she’s serving area non-profits on boards, volunteer committees and by hosting fundraisers – for which she was honored as a 2019 Woman of Achievement. 

1) You are a Matriarch and Founding Member of The Matriots PAC. Can you share with our members why you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is the solution to today’s political rancor?
The U.S. was founded as a representative democracy. Simply stated, a representative democracy is a system of government in which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. It only makes sense to me that we should elect representatives who actually reflect the amazing diversity of our voting citizens – on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, wealth, education, etc. The U.S. is not a country of white men, so there is no reason that those chosen to represent “us” politically should be primarily white men. Additionally, research conducted by Goldman Sachs and the World Bank, amongst others has shown that when women are fully engaged in a society through education, participation in the economy, or representing others in a government, the measures of a healthy society are noticeably improved.
2. In 2010 you became the first female managing director of GBQ Partners, a Columbus -based accounting firm. Why do you think it is important to have more women in positions leadership? And what advice do you have for our members hoping to climb their own respective career ladders?
More than 50% of the American population are women. 47% of the American labor force are women. In my own profession, 50% of the accounting degrees earned in the U.S. for the last 20 years have been awarded to women. It’s honestly hard to understand why we still have to ask this question. We ought to instead ask, “Why aren’t half of our leaders in business (and government and nonprofits and everywhere) women?” Young people need to “see it to be it.” Women striving to succeed in their careers need to build a team of sponsors – both men and women – who can give them advice and advocate for them. Nobody succeeds alone.
3. You are actively involved in the Columbus community, serving on the board of the Columbus-Franklin County Finance Authority, Board member of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer of Committee4Children. You’ve been recognized as a leader in the Columbus community, most recently recognized as a 2019 YWCA Woman of Achievement. And on top of that – we hear you are a fantastic cook! How do balance all of your involvements? And what initiatives are you excited about in the Columbus community?
I let the idea of balance go a long time ago and stopped keeping track of how much time I should spend on any one thing. I simply focused on doing the things that need to be done and that made me feel good. I have found that it generally works out fine to mix work and community involvement and friends and hobbies and fun into one big pot and enjoy all of it. I’ve currently found an intersection in my community service that aligns around education, workforce and addressing poverty. My volunteerism with the E3 program at United Way and on the workforce committee at the Columbus Chamber inform one another, and I know from my time on the board of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio that poverty has a disproportionate and devastating impact on women and their children. This broad topic feels like a good place to focus for now.
4. The Matriots endorsed 34 women in 2018 and 9 running in May primary elections in 2019. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?
In the 2018 endorsement cycle, The Matriots endorsed Stephanie Summerow Dumas for Hamilton County Commissioner. I heard Stephanie give a very brief speech, all of which was about commitment and hard work and her own belief that if she just did what was right and worked hard, she could help others. Her words have been stuck in my head ever since.
5. Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state!
My very favorite thing to do is host parties. I love planning, decorating, cooking and making people happy through enjoyment of food, drinks and friendship. We generally have at least four big parties a year and a lot of little ones along the way as well.

Sharon Sweda is Changing the Game

Q&A with Sharon Sweda


We know the question on our members’ minds is what are The Matriots endorsed candidates up to? Whether representing their district, pursuing careers in the private sector or planning a future run for office, our Class of 2018 is changing the game!

Lorain County is located in northeastern Ohio and includes the cities of Elyria, Vermillion and Avon Lake. 


1) You ran a hard-fought campaign in 2018 for Ohio Senate District 13. Can you tell our members what you have been up to since the election?

I immediately became re-engaged within the party and my community – as if the election had yet to take place.  I initially felt that it was therapeutic for me to stay busy as well as to help me determine my next step.  I had essentially passed the torch within my business in order to run for office.  I did not want to upset the new dynamic by returning.

Secondly, I needed time to evaluate my new direction with an emphasis in determining how to stay relevant. I felt that the campaign impacted and changed me in a way that would forever alter my purpose.

As fate would have it – staying relevant served me sooner, rather than later. A long-time County Commissioner announced his intention to seek the appointment for a vacated City Clerk of Courts position in November. In December he acquired the appointment, resigned as County Commissioner and on Feb 10, 2019, I was appointed to the vacated Commissioner seat in a run-off of 7 candidates. My term expires in 2020 when I will be campaigning again.

2) In January we gathered our Class of 2018 candidates for a post-election candidate conversation, where we debriefed on our candidates’ experience in 2018. Can you share with our members one of the lessons you learned from running for office in Ohio?

We made the decision to fold into the coordinated campaign which resulted in ignoring the need to cut our own turf.

3) We believe that when women are involved in the political process, they change the conversation. From your perspective, how did women change the conversation in 2018? And how do you think women will continue to change the conversation in 2019 and beyond?

Nationally, women made an impact in 2018 and will continue to make a difference provided we continue the momentum and focus.  Locally, gender never garnered the national momentum.

4) The Matriots PAC will endorse women running for city and school board seats in 2019. Why do you believe it is important to support women running for local offices in 2019?

I am excited to hear that you will support the local races, not simply because I am soon to be a county candidate, but because we know that good government begins on the local level. If we are going to change the landscape of Ohio elections, we need women at every level of government.

6) Now for fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It can be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state!

Black River Landing is located within Lorain, Ohio.  Lorain is a city like many in the Midwest, which have suffered over loss of its industrial base.  The city is working to revitalize and rebuild its downtown.

Black River Landing is 25 acres of Riverfront property used for festivals, picnics and my favorite, a summer concert series.The summer concerts are every Friday evening as well as some Saturdays. Cost is $5.00 for excellent cover band attractions. Black River Landing has been known to attract 4,000-6,000 attendees at every performance. There are food and beer trucks, and never any disturbances.