Candidate Questionnaire: Amy East for State Representative, 59th District

Amy East | Photo provided

Watershed Voice sent out questionnaires to over 30 candidates in contested local, state, and national races in St. Joseph County and the surrounding area for the November 3 General Election. In the days leading up to Election Day, Watershed will publish the answers it has received. Amy East, a Democratic candidate for the 59th District seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives, filled out our questionnaire. These are her answers.

Name: Amy (Davidhizar) East

Age: 42

Address: 18525 Warner Rd. Decatur, MI 49045

Party affiliation: Democrat

Are you an incumbent? No

Family (optional): I’m married to my husband, Joel. We have a daughter, Eliza.

Background/Bio:

I grew up on my mom’s family’s farm in Cass County and graduated from Constantine High School. My family has lived in this area for almost 200 years. I hold multiple degrees in anthropology and spent about 20 years as an archaeologist living and working across the eastern US. I currently work from home as a copyeditor, primarily of archaeology and anthropology texts.

Have you previously held public office, or have you served in a public leadership role? If so, what is your experience, and what are some of your accomplishments?

I’ve never held public office.

In your opinion, what are the three most important issues to the area you are seeking to represent and its constituents, and why?

Ultimately I am focused on community. My platform is Education, Economy, and Environment, and they represent—to my mind—the most important issues in our area.

The underfunding of our public schools does a disservice to our children, our future. We can’t meet the challenges of the future if our children are unprepared for the world they’ll live in.

Economy is about working for the now, as well as looking ahead. At present, there’s little incentive for our kids to stick around after they graduate. We need better jobs, that pay better wages, so that we can raise our families and save for the future. We also need upgrades to our infrastructure, including broadband access to everyone.

And we need to make sure we’re taking care of our natural resources. Clean air and water are necessary for our health, but our natural resources are also important to our economies and our identity.

What measures will you pursue to address those issues?

I view all efforts as collaborative efforts. And so I will work with local communities and governments, with the people who are most knowledgeable about the particular items, such as teachers, farmers, and small business owners, and individuals from our communities, to get to the root of a number of our issues. Whether it takes grants, reassessing our flat tax structure, or other means, I’m open to working with a variety of individuals and institutions to find solutions.

What are the three most important national issues in your opinion? What is your position on those issues?

I think that the biggest challenge facing the nation is the division between the parties. We’ll only keep spinning our wheels until we can work together and be done with the “us or them” mentality.

Outside of that, we need to have real discussion — and movement — on issues of racial equality, healthcare, and growing economic inequality. We need to address the legacy of slavery and European colonization in the lives of present-day Black, indigenous, and other peoples of color. We need to stop the ever-widening gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us. And we need to recognize that the entire nation benefits from a healthy population—both physical and mental health. Healthcare is a right.

Do you agree that the American electorate is divided right now? If your answer is yes, what measures do you think elected officials can take to bring Americans together?

Yes, I think we are incredibly divided right now, and I think a lot of it has to do with broken trust and a lack of transparency, but I also think a large part is a reflection of economic insecurity that people are feeling. And so, I believe elected officials need to rebuild trust, commit to being transparent, and they also need to work to provide a better quality of life to their constituents.

How long have you lived in the area you are seeking to represent?

Over 20 years altogether. I grew up here, moved away for about 20 years, and we have lived in our current home in Cass County for over a year.

Why did you choose to run for the position that you did?

Ultimately, I chose to run for office for my daughter. This district is my home, and I want it to have the potential to provide a good life for her and for all our kids. That means a good education and opportunity, clean air and water, and a place where the best parts of our rural values can still be found. And it’s also about being a role model to her. It’s about standing up for a life where hate, fear, name-calling, and bullying are not part of the norm.

In your view, what role should the person in the office you are seeking serve?

The person should truly work to “represent” the district and its constituents as best as possible. To me, prior to any vote, the representative should ask if it’s good for the district, and if yes, if it’s only a short-term band aid on a larger problem, or if it’s a real long-term solution.

Over the past several months, pandemic has required virtual meetings for many public bodies. Some are returning to in-person meetings, while others are not. Where do you stand on this both with respect to safety and to public access?

I think everyone recognizes that virtual meetings are no substitute for the real thing. Yet, we are again seeing cases of COVID-19 rising again in this area, just at the cusp of flu season, and going into the winter months when outdoor meetings won’t be able to happen. I’ve spent a career in science. I turn to peer-reviewed studies and evidence-based decision making.

I think virtual meetings will need to continue for safety’s sake, but they still need to be publicly accessible. Some of our local institutions have done great at continuing to be publicly accessible via virtual means. Others have not, and access is an issue in some areas. When access isn’t an issue, we need to do better at including the public into virtual spaces until it’s safer to meet again in person.

What other comments do you have regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

I understand everyone’s fatigue; I think many people in this area are mentally and emotionally exhausted. It’s even harder when it seems like doctors and scientists are continually changing guidelines and recommendations. As a mom who homeschooled my daughter and niece and nephew starting mid-March, and attempted virtual schooling this fall, I am worried about the kids too.

And while the disease may not affect me to a great degree, I worry for family and friends who are older or immunocompromised. I wear a mask for them and hope that you’ll wear a mask for the people you love as well.

Is there anything else your prospective constituents should know about you, your platform, your views, or your background?

Anyone who would like to know more can go to: EastforMI.com or find me on Facebook at @East4MIRep.

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