In her twenties, Starre Haas had two degrees, two kids, and many questions about her future.
Would she be a stay at home mom?
Would she stick to a career in accounting and finance, an industry that didn’t seem to fit her personality?
One trend had emerged: she was spending all of her free time volunteering in her new neighborhood of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. She had fallen in love with the community, the houses, and the potential. Her hunger for public service grew as she volunteered in the neighborhood. But could she transition from a volunteer grassroots community activist to making it her life’s work, especially as a mother with limited time?
“I often fought an internal battle against being a traditional mother and going after my career ambitions,” she said. “I wanted both worlds, and deep down inside I knew I could have them both.”
One night scrolling through social media, her path suddenly became clear.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. I had one baby in one arm; I was walking with my toddler in another, and I sat down in front of my computer … and this live video popped up.”
It was the Women’s Leadership Conference from Vote Run Lead, an organization that encourages women to run for office as they are. The message resonated with Haas.
“I remember I felt like this huge gasp of air was released and I almost fell back in my chair,” she said. “I needed the Vote Run Lead message at that time like none other. It allowed me to pursue where I am today and my career in women’s empowerment. I was amazed at their ability to reach me as a woman going through what I was going through at that time, in my living room.”
Vote Run Lead’s message – run as you are – and their online training – gave her passion for public service the legs to stand on.
“To hear something as stark and clear – you are good enough right now to run as you are – really helped empower me to pursue my own journey in public service and in my career today.”
Soon named president of the downtown neighborhood association, she visited the Clinton School of Public Service to introduce herself and left with a decision to enroll.
While at the Clinton School, she worked at Vote Run Lead’s New York headquarters. Today, Haas is Vote Run Lead’s Trainer Engagement & Development Director, a national position she manages from her home in Little Rock. She continues to be involved in downtown Little Rock, both as a volunteer and now, a business owner: she and her husband recently opened a new hotel, the AC Marriott, in the downtown Little Rock financial district. Her job allows her the flexibility to do school pickup for her two daughters, whom she calls her “why.”
“They are why I am doing this.
“I remember being made fun of at school for wanting a certain lady politician to run for office,” she said. “It’s their normal to see women running for president.”
We asked Haas some questions about her job and motivations.
Q: Encountering Vote Run Lead, the organization that you now work for, seems to be such a pivotal moment for you. Why do you think it was so impactful?
A: When I say I fell back in my chair, it really felt like that. Tears came to my eyes because I felt like no one understood what I wanted as a Southern woman quite at that time. As a young stay at home mom, you can’t hire a babysitter every single night, I can’t just run around at a drop of a hat, and so by seeing that information come to me online, it was such a welcome sign. It really helped steer me. I’m still amazed at what that message has done to my life today and how it has affected my trajectory and my career, but also just everyday life towards advancing women.
Q: Tell us more about your decision to go to graduate school to study women and politics.
A: I didn’t quite understand how incredible the school was. I went in with no thought of going back to school. I had two undergrad degrees, two young kids. By the end of the meeting, I walked out .. and I called my husband and said ‘I think I’m going back to school.’ I knew when they accepted me, I wanted to study women and politics. I knew that was my path because I was a 29 year old starting a new career from scratch. I knew I had to take every advantage and focus so I could to start this new career.
Listen to Starre talk about her journey to working with Vote Run Lead:
Q: What exciting things are coming for Vote Run Lead this year?
In 2020, Vote Run Lead is proud to be launching a revolutionary initiative in Georgia, Minnesota, and New York to propel 127 women to run for office and win — thus shifting their state legislatures from 30 percent to 52 percent women between 2020 and 2024.
The goal of the State Parity Project (The State Parity Project is currently a working title) is to build power and change systems so that women will have true agency over their lives. One way Vote Run Lead will do this is through a series of statewide trainings that will prepare them to run and ultimately win.
Stay tuned for our announcement at SXSW on March 15th. If you want to know more, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Describe your connection to rural America.
For the majority of grade school, I lived in a small community called Ferndale, Arkansas which was mostly rural. I’ve trained and competed horses all my life and It was quite a shock when we moved “into the city” and I could no longer keep our open adoption animal policy that we were able to maintain living on land. I guess that open adoption animal policy never actually escaped me considering I now live in town and still have my own chickens.
Furthermore, my family has deep farming roots in Rondo, Arkansas with a population of 196 residents. I have very early childhood memories of driving to the family farm and spending time with my great grandmother in the soybean fields that we farmed. I always looked forward to these visits and was disappointed when my grandmother eventually sold the farm. This being said, the entire family still takes the time each year to attend the annual fall carnival in Marianna, Arkansas and to connect with old neighbors. In fact, we actually just learned that the family farm is up for sale and are collaborating on possibly purchasing and putting it back into the family.
I am passionate about the South. I am working to empower southern women and, of course, Vote Run Lead is as well.
Q: Tell us about a moment when you felt discouraged and how you overcame it.
I was discouraged almost my entire first semester of graduate school at the Clinton School of Public Service. In between being a mother, a wife, and community activist, I was shocked at how hard it was for me to adjust to my new workload. I actually think one specific professor is responsible for my grey hair at the age of 32! That being said, by the end of the semester I adjusted and rose to meet the new even higher demands in my life. In fact, the professor I mentioned before is also who I credit for teaching me the skills I now mostly use in my career today at Vote Run Lead.
By the end of my two-year graduate program, I struggled with letting go of the higher performance levels that I was accustomed to providing at that point. By facing my worst fears, I found that it shaped me into a stronger individual and that what made me uncomfortable and seemed discouraging were really the things that I should be pursuing. It is these pursuits that have made the most impact on my life.
Q: Is there a habit or practice you subscribe to that keeps you motivated?
I’m a big believer in the power of an early morning routine. When I start the day at 5 a.m. versus 8 a.m., I find that I am able to welcome my day versus rushing through my day from appointment to appointment. This 5 a.m. time period is my “me” time. It starts with my daily morning exercise routine which is a tremendous help in allowing me to streamline all of my thoughts in order to create effective action plans. I am literally up when the sun rises, having a coffee, prepping my calendar, and as a result have a much more balanced routine.
Q: What are you reading/listening to?
As far as reading, I have a tall stack of books right next to my bed at all times. I am currently reading “More Than” by Gina Radke coupled with “Start Your Why” by Simon Sinek. In regard to what I am listening to, almost the only podcast I listen to is “How I Built This.” I am intrigued and inspired to hear the stories of these entrepreneurial masterminds and use them as motivation for my career objectives. This podcast always pushes me to keep fighting for my own ideas and pursuits and is a complete MUST during my exercise routine.