Meet a Matriot: Barbara Fillion

1. Barbara, you’re an early investor in The Matriots, a member of our endorsement committee, and you recently became a Queen Bee for Southwest Ohio. 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?

Like many of us, I was appalled by the results of the 2016 election, and the tone of the incoming administration. I went with a busload of 50 friends to the Women’s March in DC, in January 2017.  Like the six founders of The Matriots, our “bus group” wanted to be part of a movement, not just a march, so we have continued to work on a variety of issues after returning to Cincinnati.  When my long-time friend Myrita Craig invited me to her house party for The Matriots, the vision of the Matriots founders resonated with me.  We know there is data-based research confirming that companies with diverse boards and executive leadership have better business results.  Those of us who’ve worked on diverse teams have experienced their better results as well.  The adage that “When women prosper, we all prosper” is absolutely true … as women, we are unafraid to advocate for what our families, communities, and schools need most.  Having spent a 29-year career at Procter & Gamble, I know that “having a seat at the table” is absolutely crucial for women. While I’m excited by the 60% success rate of our first two years’ endorsed slates, I’m even more excited about the way these women are governing, and the number of women deciding to run every year!

2. The Matriots endorsed 15 women for the March 17 primary election. As a member of our endorsement committee, you played a significant role in these endorsements. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?

I can truly say that I’ve been inspired by all the women we have endorsed … all of them are running for office on top of incredibly busy lives, and yet they are willing to add the stress of fundraising and running for office, because this is how they’ve decided to make a difference.  But I’ll highlight Jessica Miranda, who is the first SW OH candidate Myrita Craig and I interviewed, in early 2018 … and is now my State Representative for OH HD28.  Jessica is the daughter of a single mom (who she now supports), the mom of 3 daughters, a business owner, and a former School Board President.  She is in her mid-30s, and has been a business owner for 9 years … she and her husband own a tax and insurance franchise in Forest Park, OH, where they serve a bi-lingual population. She first ran for OH HD28 in the 2016 election, when she learned she was expecting their third daughter almost immediately after filing her petition to run.  Although she lost that election, she came back in 2018, and won by 56 votes, being the only Democrat to unseat an incumbent Republican in the State House that year.  She began working across the aisle with her Republican counterparts, even before being sworn in, by reaching out to former OH Senate President Dick Finan (a Republican, currently mayor of Evendale, and my next-door neighbor ).  Dick hosted her ceremonial swearing-in, in Evendale Council Chambers, and has been an on-going mentor during her first term.

She is a passionate advocate for education, particularly “urban suburban” districts like Winton Woods. Earlier this month, I attended a fundraiser for Jessica, hosted by a group of very involved Democrats in Wyoming, a Cincinnati suburb that’s not even in her district.  Rep. Sedrick Denson (OH HD33, also in his first term) spoke during the Q&A session, and could not have been more complimentary about how quickly Jessica has learned the ropes, how hard she works … and how he looks to her as an expert on all issues about public education. To quote Jessica, “(She) will not be out-worked” in her run for re-election, or her advocacy for the residents for her District. Jessica will need to raise a LOT of money this year (at least twice as much as last term), because she is running against a former Hamilton County Commissioner, with much broader name recognition, so please let me know if you need information on where to send campaign contributions.

3. You are an avid traveler. What are your observations about the differences between the places you’ve traveled to and the political environment in Ohio?

I’ve really enjoyed traveling with companies like Go Ahead Tours and Road Scholar, who include educational components in their itineraries.  In Croatia, our tour director had been part of the resistance fighters who were active in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, in the early 1990s.  Hearing his stories of the transition from Communist rule, and his dismay at the lack of good jobs (outside seasonal tourism) for young people, was eye-opening.  We’ve also traveled inside the US, and been in cities like Portland, OR, where environmental concerns are addressed more assertively and found that refreshing.  Last summer, we hosted guests from our church’s partner church (a UMC) in Samara, Russia (and we will travel to visit them later this year).  It was shocking to hear how their country limits the “reach” of churches other than Russian Orthodox churches, and how constrained their public comments must be.

4. As a Queen Bee working to grow the Hive in Southwest Ohio, how do you envision The Matriots growing and expanding in that region?

I hope we will establish a number of regular opportunities to get together, meet our SW OH candidates, learn how we can support their work, and expand the “reach” of our work, by continuing to invite new people to join us. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting the women who have decided to run, their staff members and volunteers, and other Matriots. I hope our SW OH “Hive” will be able to offer this opportunity to an expanding network of women and men who want to help make a difference for Ohio, by electing many more women to state & local office!

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!

In 2013, my husband and I built a log home (our “cabin in the woods”) in eastern Adams County, in the foothills of Appalachia.  (It’s seriously my “happy place.”) Through our Amish builder, and in the process of shopping frequently at Miller’s Furniture, we met a number of Amish families, and learned more about their community in Adams County.  Twice a year, they hold a chicken dinner and auction, to fund their schools.  We absolutely love attending the chicken dinner, and staying at least through the quilt segment of the auction.  The food is fabulous, we’ve successfully bid on two beautiful hand-made quilts (which now adorn 2 of the 3 beds in our cabin), and we really enjoy this opportunity to catch up with the various Amish families we met in the process of building our home.  (If you’re interested in attending, these are held on the first Friday in May and the last Friday in September.  Dinner is served 4-7 p.m.; the auction begins at 5 p.m; the quilt auction begins around 8 p.m.)

My newest “hobby” seems to be making buttons for women’s campaigns … thanks to our Public Library’s Maker Spaces, where it’s incredibly affordable to make buttons. (I can make 100 buttons for less than $12.50 .. what a great in-kind gift for these amazing women The Matriots are supporting!)

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