Issue with state-funded preschool leads to run for office

Holly Brink hasn’t always been a politically active person. The new Republican state representative for Iowa House District 80 started attending eggs and issues event in her community and it took off from there.

Once former Rep. Larry Sheets decided he wouldn’t run again, conversations started that led to Brink taking a shot.

“I was involved in high school some and a little bit in college, but then I had little kids and I didn’t stay near as involved as I maybe would’ve liked to,” she said. “But in the last 7-10 years, I’ve really picked up a lot more interest.”

For Brink, serving in the Iowa House is about doing her part in ensuring the next generation can stay in Iowa and have the same opportunities she has had.

“That’s a big deal for me,” Brink said. “I want to make sure I’m really involved in that. My husband and I both had opportunities to leave Iowa numerous times, but we love Iowa, we love raising our children here and we sacrificed to stay here.”

Brink said she’s always been pro-life to the core, and she’s grown more conservative over the years. But the issue that got her involved in the process centered around preschool.

“I don’t think one day should decide a child’s academic future,” she said. “Academics is one of the most important things we can give kids and we need to utilize that opportunity to the best of our ability. We have children from six months to nine months crawling, from nine months to 15 months walking — so why does one day decide their entire academic future?”

State-funded preschool for 4-year olds has Sept. 15 as the magical day that dictates when a child is ready and when a child isn’t.

“If the child is born Sept. 16, they wait. If they’re born Sept. 14, they go,” Brink said. “So you have young kids who maybe aren’t ready but have to go to preschool because otherwise they can’t get into preschool. I started talking with my local senator about how I wish they’d expand summer birthdays and those kids could have a choice. I don’t like the fact that you don’t have a choice.”

Sending children to preschool before they are ready leads to all sorts of issues, Brink said. When a child has ADHD it’s usually said they can’t sit still or concentrate. But Brink says when a child is anxious and feels they do not belong somewhere, what will they do — likely not sit still or be able to concentrate.

Running for Iowa House in 2018 was Brink’s first campaign experience.

“I actually really enjoyed it. I loved going out and door knocking and meeting new people,” she said. “I toured so many manufacturing companies and different businesses. It was way better than I thought. I was always worried I was behind. It was a very big shock that night that I won by as much as I did.”

Not only did she hear about many concerns from the voters, she also was able to learn about their ideas for solutions.

“When I’d talk with people they had concerns, but they also had solutions,” Brink said. “I learned so much. Our district includes four counties, so it’s a wider spread.”

Her biggest challenge through the campaign was keeping her schedule.

“There were four different central committees and so many parades,” she said. “Trying to keep that stuff all straight and making it all work was probably the hardest part for me.”
Holly and her husband, Adam, have three children from six years old to 15 years old. All three were able to be involved with her campaign. She’ll continue working for AFLAC, but will be stepping down from her management role at the beginning of the year.

“My six-year-old would tell people she was my campaign manager,” Brink said. “She’d go door knocking and did oodles of parades with me. My nine-year-old was really excited and the oldest works after school, but he was really good. We had a lot of talks and discussion. I made him go to several different things with me just because I thought he needed to learn. He’s in government, so he learned a lot about campaigning and government.”

At first Brink was hesitant to have them involved, but the experience was undoubtedly beneficial.

“I was kind of nervous taking the kids originally, but people loved knowing I was a mom,” she said. “If I didn’t have them then they were wondering where they were at. That was really fun. My kids got to make new friends that they’re excited to see all of the time that they would’ve never met before.”

She hasn’t given much thought to what her legislative priorities will be entering the 2019 session. She has plenty to figure out before January.

“I’m still in shock a little bit,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to this. I’m excited. I know once I get my feet wet I will be able to add a lot of value because I have a lot of experience in different areas. My husband and I farm. I’m a business consultant. I have kids in public and private education. I deal with insurance on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully I’ll be able to help our state continue to grow.”

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall