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She Leads Texas: Sheryl Cole

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Rep. Sheryl Cole discusses her early mornings, how she got her start in politics and joining the Texas House of Representatives.

By Anna Lassmann

Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin, entered the world of politics when her three boys were in school. From joining the PTA to becoming mayor pro tem, Cole has served Austin for years. Now she is expanding her political reign beyond the Austin City Council into the Texas House of Representatives. This is how she leads Texas.

Her mornings: “Well, I wake up super early because I like to exercise, and I still have my alarm clocks. I usually start making calls and returning calls and outlining what’s going to happen real early in the morning with everybody, my paid staff and my law-practice staff.”

Her introduction to politics: “I have three boys and they were very active in school and I was very active in the public school system, and I was a PTA president and I learned about the importance of civic involvement. And I was also involved in a lot of other organizations, [including]Planned Parenthood, the Urban League and Communities in Schools. … I just kind of found myself wrapped up in the fabric of the city.”

Her transition from Austin City Council: “I was elected at-large and I served for 10 years and I left as the mayor pro tem, and it was a nonpartisan body. So, here I’m representing a district that includes two other cities, Pflugerville and Manor, and it has historically been a very partisan body and it is so much larger in the House, with 150 people who think strategically about how to make a bill pass. I also add that there are no windows, it’s hard to find the bathroom and there’s 100 times as many lobbyists.”

Her perspective on women in politics: “I’m wondering what exactly it is like because I’ve been in politics a long time. There are more women, which I think helps the tone dynamic and that is very, very favorable. I do think that people are not accustomed to women…acting as aggressively or forcefully as men, and we have to be very careful in not being underestimated because of that.”

Her stance on women’s issues: “I think it’s really important that women understand that our issues are oftentimes unique, and we have to be involved in those. But it’s equally important that we assert ourselves in everything that’s being discussed, not only because of our numbers in the population, but because we carry the babies, and I think that’s for a reason.”

Her family life: “My mom lives with me and we go get fruit and vegetables and sometimes we cook. I am married and I’ve been married for almost 30 years. So, at that stage, you kind of just go through the mail together. And we have three boys who are all grown and out of the house, so I try to avoid all calls for money.”

Her balance of practicing law and politics: “Oh, I have to [do both.]You know, we don’t make much money. I’ve got all my kids out of the house, [which helps.]Once they [were]gone, it [was]a totally different ballgame. I don’t do much law once the session has started.”

Her favorite part of Austin: “I love the water. I love to walk [along]the lake. I love to be outside. I like the nice weather.”

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