Theresa Rich for State Representative
MI-37 in MI http://www.richforrep.com
33228 W. 12 Mile Road, #123
Farmington Hills, MI
Primary Election Date: 2014-08-05 General Election Date: 2014-11-04
Who am I?
I am running to build a strong community for a lifetime that provides freedom, opportunity and security for everyone. My candidacy is for the Michigan House of Representatives (37th District – Farmington and Farmington Hills).
I am a lifelong Michigander who believes that there is important work that needs to be done in our state legislature to return Michigan to greatness.
I have served in leadership positions on over a dozen boards, committees and commissions. As a parent and the first in my family to graduate with a university degree, it is natural that most of my community work has centered on children and education. In 2010, I was appointed and then twice elected a trustee of Oakland Schools (now Board vice president), serving over 200,000 students in 28 school districts with a budget of over a quarter of a billion dollars. I served for over a decade on the board of the Farmington/Farmington Hills Foundation for Youth & Families (including seven years as allocations chair). For nine years, I was on the executive board of the Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind & Visually Impaired (including as vice-president when it was named Crain’s Best Run Nonprofit under $5 million). Earlier this year, I was recognized by the Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan as one of their "One Tough Cookie" awardees for leadership in the community.
For the past 30 years, I have been employed at General Motors. This includes a decade of practicing tax law and nearly two decades in Human Resources. I am currently the global head of the training department, which serves people in 60+ countries.
I am also a motivational speaker and author. From my vantage point at the epicenter of the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression, I helped thousands of people find calm and be their best. This time inspired Staying Sane in Crazy Times, a motivational, self-help book and workbook. My children’s self-help story of resilience, Bretta Bunny Bounces Back, co-authored with my teenage daughter, Alyson, was published in September.
My educational background includes a PhD (Organization & Management) from Capella University, two law degrees from Wayne State University (LL.M. Taxation and Juris Doctor), two business degrees from Grand Valley State University (Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting), and a business degree from Lake Michigan College (Associate of Business Administration). Lake Michigan College honored me in 2006 as the Clarence Beckwith Distinguished Alumni of the Year.
I live in Farmington Hills with my husband, Brian Rich, and our children Zachary (my campaign manager) and Alyson (my campaign coordinator).
Why am I running?
Seeking this office was never part of my career plan. I am happy in my corporate career, and serving as a school board member and community activist. When I was first approached about running, I said, “No.” After months of reflection, it became very clear that not only should I run, but that I must run. This open seat is at risk. Given my tax experience, my business background, my connections in the community, my years of service and my strong, progressive values, I am confident that I am the one most likely to deliver a win in November in what will certainly be a contentious race.
Throughout this campaign, I've met people who completely reinforce the correctness of my decision. My neighbors, Sally and Mark, are retirees on a fixed income. Their lives revolve around grandchildren who live a plane ride away. Our crumbling Michigan roads claimed not one, but two, tires and wheels this spring. Now, they are wondering if these costs will cause them to miss a visit with their grandchildren. I’m also running for Roberta, a school teacher, who was meticulously saving for her retirement and planned to retire at the end of the school year. Due to the new pension tax, she has to delay her retirement indefinitely to make sure she’ll have enough money to see her through. At the same time, Emma is soon graduating and wants to become a teacher. Because of the Robertas in Michigan, Emma has no job to go to. Finally, I’m running for Kyle, a 22 year old whose dad is unable to find work. So he dropped out of community college to take on two (almost) fulltime jobs to support his family.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
I grew up with strong Michigan values and was taught at an early age to participate in making my community stronger. I know what it's like to be in hard times and need a hand up. I know what it's like to be a minimum wage waitress putting herself through school. I know first-hand how an education creates opportunity to succeed. And I know the challenges of raising a family.
As a tax attorney, I can see how tax policy is being manipulated to make winners out of special interests and losers out of our seniors, our working families, and our kids. I see how our state spends more money incarcerating our citizens than educating them. I can’t sit back and watch Republicans continue their shenanigans with the tax dollars paid by our hard-working citizens.
As a mother, I believe that the Michigan that we leave for our children and grandchildren needs to be clean, safe, and welcoming. I will protect our environment, stand up for good health, protect the rights of women, and ensure our given right to be equal under the law; regardless of zip code, affluence, race, gender, creed, or whom we love.
1. Improving Public Education – As vice president of the Oakland Schools Board of Education, a good public education is a number one priority for me. With regard to my career, I am the head of General Motors’ training department which means that I am in charge of a person’s education after they graduate and enter the workforce. Education needs to start at the pre-K level and continue through retirement in the form of job re-skilling. As a state representative I will bring my knowledge about tax law to Lansing and make sure that all of Michigan’s children have access to a world class public education. Education, though, needs to continue for people even after they graduate because the workplace is an area where if you are not constantly learning and re-skilling, you become irrelevant.
2. Tax Reallocation – When I go to Lansing as a state representative, I will be going there with knowledge of tax policy that few in the legislature have. This means I have a unique understanding of the tax policy shenanigans being played by this governor and the Republican legislature. There needs to be a rollback of the corporate special interest tax giveaways and a reallocation of that money toward improving the Michigan infrastructure, restoring the homestead property tax credit, and addressing food insecurity of our citizens, particularly our children.
3. Strengthen Michigan’s Middle Class – We need to improve education and job training opportunities for our working families and find ways for higher education to be affordable. As a state representative, I can further this battle through creative tuition payback programs. An example of this could be tuition forgiveness for staying in Michigan following graduation.
My DFA Values
It is interesting that this question looks to how my campaign will embody the values of community, security and liberty. The reality is that my campaign simply reflects how I live my life, building these values every day.
World class public education is the bedrock of a community. More educated the parents create more successful children and so we create a virtuous circle. Community also means we stand for people who may be in circumstances where additional help is needed. In my decade on the board of the Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind & Visually Impaired, I made sure people with visual impairment received training to be high functioning. In 12 years on the Farmington/Farmington Hills Foundation for Youth & Families board, I made sure there was a free, safe after-school place for middle schoolers – lowering the youth crime rate in our community. I addressed food insecurity for the one out of every four Farmington elementary schoolers who are food insecure. We gave them weekend food backpacks prepared by special needs kids – making a symbiosis where the food-insecure kids considered themselves as helping out the special needs kids by giving them work, while the special needs kids considered themselves as helping out the food-insecure kids by preparing their backpack every week. On the Oakland Schools Board of Education, we prepare students for myriad careers, including in green industries: wind, solar, geothermal. With a good education foundation, workers are able to earn more, resulting in payment of additional taxes, resulting in adequate funding for police, fire, and other necessary services - another virtuous cycle.
Embodying the value of liberty is as natural as breathing air. My husband and I are an interfaith couple. When we married, we deliberately chose to live here because of community diversity. As a mother, I believe the Michigan that we leave for our children and grandchildren should be clean, safe, and welcoming. I am running to protect our environment, to stand up for good health, protect the rights of women, and ensure our given right to be equal under the law - regardless of zip code, affluence, race, gender, creed, and whom we love. My record shows that I support all of this.
In the 1990s, as an environmental tax attorney, I led a national initiative that changed the tax code so companies would remediate leaking underground storage tanks sooner. Before diversity was widely accepted in Corporate America, I was the founding leader of GM’s corporate finance diversity initiatives team to create a more inclusive workplace. I led the effort to install lactation rooms and am a straight-ally member of the GM LGBTQ employee resource group.
In my personal life, I work for equality. Last year, I co-hosted an event for the Royal Oak ONE ballot initiative, even though Royal Oak is not in my direct community. I am also involved in ENDA efforts.
In summary, am I going to conduct my campaign any differently than I’ve conducted my past 30 years? No.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Engaging with the progressive grassroots is the beginning, middle and end of my campaign. When I was still in the process of deciding whether to run, I reached out to The Justice Caucus to attend the weekend-long Camp Millie to increase my understanding of issues and connect with other progressives. I also reached out to The Progressive Majority to begin their webinar series and make connections at a national level. This later resulted in their endorsement. To ensure support from the greater education community, I made sure I had encouragement from all the Oakland Schools Board Members with whom I serve. Finally, I talked with and received encouragement from Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward, former Oakland County Commissioner Steve Schwartz and former Farmington Hills mayor Joanne Smith. I am honored to add that I was endorsed by that UAW Region 1.
Once I decided to run, I worked with the Michigan Democratic Women’s Caucus, Emily’s List, NOW, the Women’s Officials Network, and MI List. I also enlisted volunteers who had worked on campaigns for Carl Levin, Gary Peters, Lisa Brown, Andy Schorr, Rashida Tlaib, Vicki Barnett, and had been organizers for the Victory Caucus and the Sierra Club. I meet with the business managers for the unions that comprise the Greater Detroit Council of Building & Construction Trades Unions so that I could understand their issues and concerns, as well as make connections for them with people I know in the business community. I later received their endorsement, as well as the endorsement of a number of their local union PACs. For connection in the immediate Democratic community, I became more active in the Democratic clubs for Farmington, Oakland County, and the 14th Congressional District. Finally, I have had hundreds of cups of coffee with local community members to hear their concern and engage them in my campaign.
Going forward, I am building from the connections already made and including people in our door-to-door team, call team and GOTV team.