I’ve been covering politics for so long that, 11 years into it, I rarely run into candidates that blow me away. It’s isn’t a matter of becoming jaded, because I still get excited about folks like Richard Irvin and Ron Hain. It’s something more along the lines of the expectations rise commensurately with the number of politicians you’ve met.
So when Don Ishmael said his wife Anna was running for D131 school board, and she was a much better politician than he was, my curt response was, “That’s not setting the bar too high, sir!”
And he agreed! For reference purposes, Don is a good friend, a Kane County Board member, and the Aurora Township Democratic Chairman,
But when I got sat down with Don and Anna at Ron Hain’s recent campaign kickoff event, I was completely blown away.
Anna grew up as the only daughter of seven children in a dirt poor East Aurora neighborhood. But rather than lament her lot in life, she decided, if she couldn’t complete with her peers in the money and social prestige categories, she’d do it with her brain.
And she excelled in every subject.
When she got pregnant at 17, Anna thought her only option was to drop out of school until a teacher insisted she was going to graduate. So she did!
Fast forward to 2017 and Anna is a civilian fire inspector with the City of Aurora, she’s a certified EMT, she has an Associate’s Degree in psychology, and she’s almost completed her second Associate’s Degree in fire sciences.
She’s managed to accomplish all this while raising four children too!
Not one to rest on her laurels, Anna is running for East Aurora school board. Of course, that means this Genevan can’t vote for her, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a stake in this race.
My wife is math interventionist at a D131’s middle school and she comes home with some of the saddest student stories I’ve ever heard. Most of those tales revolve around the fact that these young men and women don’t believe they have options. And if you feel like your destiny is already set, what’s the value of an education.
So the first thing I said to Anna is, “I gotta get into you into my wife’s classroom to talk to these students.” They need to hear from someone who made it despite the same difficult start. They need to hear about possibilities beyond their limited reality. They need to understand they have options.
And we need a D131 school board member who understands what it means to be in that “hopeless” position. By the way, Anna’s capacity to convey her story makes me look like an amateur.
Then there’s this. Much like my presence prepared my wife for middle schoolers, if Anna can survive 22 years of Don, then she’s certainly ready to serve on a school board.
So I’m asking all you East Siders to vote for Anna Ishmael on April 4. I haven’t been this excited about a candidate in years!