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Interview with Ohio Senator Tavares

"You can have a career, follow your passion or your purpose and serve."


Having fulfilled roles in public service for more than twenty years, Senator Charleta Tavares tells us how she is leaning in as an Ohio Senator while executing an appointment as CEO for an Ohio organization. In spite of the purported challenges of being a public servant, Tavares explains how she is fulfilling her purpose and hopes that she will inspire more women to lean in as elected officials.

Lean In Ohio: For Lean In Ohio readers who may be wondering, what are the responsibilities and role of an Assistant Minority Leader?

Senator Charleta Tavares: The responsibilities are based on the needs of the Caucus. I am a part of a leadership team which develops an agenda for the Caucus, help extends its message and what it represents as well as define the legislative priorities of the Caucus. Also, I am a part of a team that identifies potential candidates to run for office. We have an overall caucus agenda but we also support the needs of individual members who have an agenda for the communities they serve.

Lean In Ohio: Senator Tavares, you served as Executive Director of the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence (MACC) and President/CEO of Primary One Health. What led to pursuing a career in public office?

Senator Charleta Tavares: My career in public office was in advance of serving as executive director of the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence. I served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 1998. Also, I served in the House of Representatives as the minority whip and was a full-time legislator. In 1998, thirteen days after the death of my term within the House of Representatives, I ran for Secretary of State. I had to decide whether to run for re-election or to run for secretary of state. I chose to run for secretary of state which meant at the end of my term, I would no longer be in office. There was an opening on the Columbus City Council. I interviewed and was appointed to the City Council in January of 1999 and served for 11 years. It was a part-time position which enabled me to take on the position as Executive Director of the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence in 2006. I served in that role until December 2014. Finally, in February 2015, I was recruited into the Primary One Health Organization. I am fulfilling that role while serving as a senate member.

Lean In Ohio: You are a graduate of Spelman College. In Spelman’s mission statement, it describes the prestigious institution as “a historically Black college and a global leader in the education of women of African descent, dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and the intellectual, creative, ethical, and leadership development of its students”. How do feel this has helped prepare you for leadership today?

Senator Charleta Tavares: I attended Spelman College for a year. My dad bribed me with a car to return to the state of Ohio. From there on, I attended Ohio State. I am very proud of my attendance at Spelman and I'm certainly an alumnus because I satisfied a full academic year. But it was probably meant for me to come back home because my dad passed away that next year. My dad died of a massive heart attack and that's one of the reasons I've focused on health and human services issues. My dad had a stroke at the age of 38 and a heart attack at age 48. Health care issues have been in the forefront of my life. Sometimes out of that sort of pain comes your passion.


Interviewed by Julene Allen

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Julene Allen