Meet Jessica Harrington. She’s the candidate for the State Representative District 64. She is a teacher at Sargent Smith Middle school, who was born and raised in South St. Petersburg.
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: My grandmother was a teacher of 35 years in Pennsylvania and when I was growing up my, dad would always tell me: “Oh! You would be such a great teacher”. I kinda like wanted to make my own path for myself so I was like, No.. I’m not gonna be a teacher. And I thought about it and I fought it a lot. I went off to college and I actually majored in political Science with the intention of going to Law school. When I got out of college I realized that it would be very difficult for me and my family to be able to afford law school and I didn’t want to leave college with massive student debt, so I decided to go into education. I get the best of both worlds, I could teach social studies, I could teach about the constitution. That’s the choice I’ve made and I love it.
Q: Can you tell me about your candidacy?
A: I never thought that I would run for office, I thought that was something lawyers did, I thought that has something that people that have political families did and after the 2016 election I decided that we don’t have enough regular people, just people like you and me, representing us in government. Why is it right now we are struggling funding public schools? Why is it families can’t afford their medicine? Why is it that they did a survey and almost half of Americans only can’t afford a $400 emergency. So there’s always like critical issues and I just felt like nobody is solving them, no one’s stepping up to help. So in 2016, I got really fed up with the way things were, so I decided to get really active, I started campaigning, I started working for candidates and in 2018 I decided to run myself.
Q: What can people do to help you?
A: The very first thing that we are trying to accomplish is getting on the ballot and what that means is we have 2 options to get on the ballot so people can actually vote on us. We can get 1200 people to sign a petition and say: “Hey I wanna see her on the ballot”, and I’m happy to report that we have 1050 of those already so we are on our way and have 150 petitions more to collect. Right now it’s difficult not being able to interact with people because of the Corona virus so we are really working hard to get those remaining petitions virtually by emailing and messaging people who live in the district. If I don’t get the petitions in time then I have to pay $2000 fee to get on to the ballot. That’s what I had to do during my first election because I didn’t have time to collect the petitions so that was kind of disheartening to spend $2000 to be on the ballot. Once that happens the qualifying deadline will be this June, once I know that I’m on the ballot then people will be able to vote for me in August 18th. For the past year and a half I’ve been campaigning literally door to door, knocking on people’s door to let them know who I am, what the issues are, and if people are interested in joining the campaign or letting people know in the community about us, they can go to jessicaharrington.org and they can sign up to volunteer. Susan Paxson for example, I met her on the campaign trail and she’s been so amazing ‘cause she’s like, I wanna help, how can I help? So I asked her to take her community. So I’m asking people to talk to voters, talk to people in your own community ‘coz they know your face, they know who you are, they trust you and if we can get enough people doing that talking to voters in their own neighborhood in their communities we can reach so many people so that’s what we’ve been doing for the past year and half.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in North Tampa, and what do you love there?
A:I live really close to Sushi Alive actually here in Westchase, it is amazing, it is really so good, they have a nice outside like patio area, they have really cool fish inside, aquarium, the service is amazing, food is great. Me and my mom go there a lot not only because it’s close but also they have a great sushi.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in North Tampa?
A:I went to the University of Florida, I pretty much left right after High school when I went straight to college in Gainesville and I was there until 2013. So I moved back to this part of the Bay area in 2013.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in North Tampa?
A:Being in the political realm, you do get to meet a lot of people. One person that I think is really inspirational is Shannon Watts, she’s actually not from this area but she actually does frequently visit. The whole premise of what she does is that she helps working on solving the gun violence issue especially gun violence in our schools, in our communities.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A: I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska and I’ve had friends that have gone cruises there that sayL “You have to do it at least once in your life.” I feel like it would be a beautiful place to visit.
Q: What is your favorite movie OR TV shows?
A: We’ve been locked down for couple days here, I’ve been watching a couple of shows and cleaning the house. I’ve been watching the Handmade’s Tale actually. It makes me want to do my part to vote and just to be active.
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A:I do feel that right now in our country that there’s a lot of ugliness and divisiveness, people aren’t getting along right now and a lot has to do politics, and I feel like our country lost a little bit for not being kind to each other. No matter who someone votes for I’ll always treat them with dignity and respect because they’re a person and they have the right to their opinions. So my advise is especially to our kids.. be kind to each other, love each other and have a voice and opinion and s but just treat people with respect. And VOTE, ha-ha.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A:There’s a lot of things that I’d like to do. Fixing public education is on my bucket list, visiting places that might be not be there in the next hundred years. Like I said in Alaska there are many glaciers, ice and it seems to be melting, and it seems that things aren’t going so well for the climate, we have this climate emergency.
Q: What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A:I love music, I’m constantly listening to Hamilton on Broadway and if I’m not sure what to put on I always go to the Beatles, I grew up and my mom always has it on and it’s kinda nostalgic for me to play that. I love the Beatles.
Q: Who has the most positive impact in your life?
A: I’ll definitely say my parents have been very influential in my life just because growing up we were not very poor but we struggled, and they worked so hard to make sure that I had everything I needed and I was able to go to college. To me the love that you must have for your child to go through that and try to make it better for them, I think that is so admirable. I love my parents so much and I love that they sacrificed so I could have a better life.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about North Tampa?
A:I think what brought me here was that I like how it’s not in the middle of everything, you can still find some places that you’d feel like it’s a small town or homey feel to it. I love the nature, we have the most amazing parks and trails, our neighborhoods are just so beautiful and you just feel your in a whole different place.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A:I hope it’s teaching but if it’s not possible just because it’s getting really hard to afford to be able to be a teacher, I’m hoping that I can go into public service where I have advocacy and continue fighting for education. And maybe do some tutoring with children or filling in some gaps in school. But I definitely see myself in education, I don’t know if it’s a teacher or as an advocate.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: Well, I was a Teacher of the Year at my school so that’s kinda cool thing that I don’t usually tell a lot of people. I have been a teacher at Sargent Smith for 5 years now, prior to that I was teaching at Middleton High School and I was a Special Education Department Head.
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: Family especially when I was in college I came home quite often because I missed my family. Laughter ‘cause I like to laugh a lot with my family and Love.
Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
A: Merryl Streep for sure.