By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee) recently finished her first year as state representative for Assembly District 12. As a freshman legislator, Myers entered the assembly ready to fight for her district and it’s a fight she plans to continue into her second year.
Although Myers is new to the assembly, she was no stranger to the work required. One of her first jobs was working for Sen. Lena Taylor. There she saw firsthand how an office was supposed to run and how to engage with her district.
One of the many ways that Myers engaged with her district was by visiting schools and churches, an objective she plans to continue next year. She also makes a point to meet with community leaders, business owners and the police captains in her district.
It’s not enough to ask people to vote, but to have them understand what exactly the Wisconsin State Assembly does, she said.
“I let the community know what’s going on,” she said, noting that the former representative wasn’t effective at engaging the community.
Being in the assembly isn’t just about legislation its about creating an open dialogue with the district and having an ear to the ground, Myers said.
The lack of communication and representation from her predecessor was one of the reasons she decided to run.
“I looked at my community and I felt we were not being represented to the best we could be,” Myers said.
Myers’ three main focuses are education, healthcare and public safety. Before she joined the assembly, she worked as an administrative with Milwaukee Public Schools for two and a half years. Prior to that she was the education director for the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections.
Although she’s no longer a teacher, Myers views her job as a classroom of sorts.
“At my core I’m a teacher and this is a bigger classroom,” she said.
Lately, Myers has been educating the men in the assembly about the importance of ethnic hair. Myers is one of two women of color in the assembly and together they are creating a piece of legislation titled The Crown Act, which will prohibit ethnic hair from being discriminated against in the workplace. As a result, Myers has found herself explaining the history of black women hair and why they deserve the right to wear it as they please.
As a member of the Wisconsin Black Caucus, Myers said the African Americans elected try their best to stand together, especially on issues relating to race. One of her proudest moments happened alongside her fellow caucus members.
There was a controversy surrounding the Black History Month resolution, which highlights different African American individuals. The caucus wanted to highlight Colin Kapernick, who was born in Wisconsin, but were met with resistance and discrimination by other members of the assembly.
Some Caucasian assembly members even drafted their own resolution. The Black Caucus stuck together, and their efforts paid off, Kapernick was included on the resolution.
She’s also helping out on Assembly Bill 62, which addressed the prescription drug crises. The drug manufactures need to let people know when the prices are going to rise and why, Myers said. As consumers, people deserve a chance to weigh in.
So far, one of Myers toughest challenges is to continue being an independent thinker in order to do what’s best for her district. People go to the extremes on both sides, but being an independent thinker is important to maintaining and building relationships with both Democrats and Republicans, she said.
Most recently, Myers worked on a bi-partisan bill that would have allowed certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to be certified based on the federal standards, which require at least 75 hours of training including clinicals versus Wisconsin’s requirements at 120 hours of training. Gov. Tony Evers vetoed it, but Myers plans to continue working on it.
Going into next year, Myers plans to continue working on education, public safety and healthcare and of course, helping her district to the best of her ability.