“It’s okay to be scared. The decision to run for public office can be intimidating because you open not only yourself, but your family’s lives up to the public. That can be frightening, but it’s okay you have to take that fear and turn it into fuel. I know people who are running and terrified of speaking publicly I tell them it’s okay you are here for a purpose relax and let it flow. I don’t have fear of public speaking, but I still give myself a pep talk before I address any audience.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Danyell Lanier, a proud Navy Veteran, Dedicated Mom/Wife and most currently the Democratic Candidate for Collin County Judge
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you! I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and wanted to follow in the footsteps of my Father and Uncle and serve my country they had served proudly in the Army, BUT I loved the ocean and I chose the world’s finest Navy. I served five years and separated to raise my family, after a divorce I decided to move to Plano and try a different direction. Healthcare. Which made my Mom proud because she is a nurse. I chose the administrative part. Insurance. For over eighteen years I have continued to serve my country in a different way by ensuring everyone understands the principles of their health insurance by training provider liaisons on federal regulations. While I love the work that I do affecting 12 million members worldwide I wanted to be more hands on. I am a strong advocate for Veterans both in my workplace and here in Collin County. I am an advocate and volunteer for domestic violence survivors being one myself. Even with doing all of this…I still felt it wasn’t enough. The Presidential election of 2016 was an eye opener for me that I definitely needed to do more. There were signs or synchronicities happening all around me ordering my steps to actually enter the political arena I have cousin that ran for City Council in the early 90’s and I used to block walk with her so I have always kept up with local politics I spoke to her about my Collin how affordable housing was decreasing while the population was increasing, traffic was awful, and houses were springing up daily-She encouraged me to run for City Council I said I would think about. I chose a different path Board of Ethics which was a little more in alignment with my background of Auditing and maintaining Integrity. Yet I still felt it’s not enough. The Alabama election of 2017 happened and all the headlines of our highest office brought me to the point where I said I need to impact my community and my County. I became involved in my local government attending not only City Council meetings but the Commissioner’s Court meetings. I took a keen interest in the Commissioner’s Court as they are the Administrative and Legislative arm of the County. December 2017 I filed my petition to run for County Judge as a Democrat.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career or campaign?
I will go with the funniest story- Yitzi this campaign is a journey that is absolutely amazing I wear multiple hats working woman, wife, and mother occasionally I get to just be Danyell (some days). I keep a few pair of pumps or heels in my car I swear my backseat is like a mini closet. I normally will wear my gym shoes until I get the venue and then grab a pair of heels out of the backseat. This day I was multi-tasking (on the phone and texting) as I usually do and grabbed two different color pumps red and black (same style) and didn’t realize it until I had sat down and glanced down at my feet. I took my book bag covered my feet until we had a break and quickly ran back to the car to switch them out. Coincidentally no one said anything.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story of a particular person that you helped.
Success is such a strong word. I will say I am blessed to be a blessing to others. I travel by faith and not by sight, so I find myself in certain places or situations to where I am to help others. Most recently I had a young lady reach out to me because she felt she was being bullied in her workplace and didn’t know what else to do she had reported it, and yet they couldn’t find any “misconduct”. So while we were talking we somehow got on a conversation about “owls” and their habitat. A few weeks had went by and we spoke again she told me she found a new job and she was happy, she also send me a card thanking me for my lesson on the “resiliency of owls” that gave her renewed strength. I thought that was great until she was honest with me and told a day before we talked she had planned on ending her life because she felt the walls “were closing in”, but if “owls can move on and maintain” so could she. That was confirmation for me that we never know how our words and actions can impact others. I have resolved that all words that flow from my mouth will be to speak life to those around me.
Yitzi: Which specific things do you plan to do to help the vulnerable in our society?
My background of being a veteran and in healthcare allows me to connect with the vulnerable members of our society that may “need a lil help. I am in process of collaborating with Veteran Support groups with helping veterans complete their paperwork for disability, receiving ratings and medals post service, and understanding their entitlements. Many people forget that everyone isn’t online or computer savvy. For instance my step father died March 2017 and he was an Air Force Veteran my Mom contacted them for information and she was receiving packets with up to thirty pages in them because she wasn’t computer literate. I helped her through that so she could receive the Widow’s entitlements. What about the other widows or widowers who don’t have a great daughter like me? Just kidding. Senior Citizens have a special place in my heart. My Mom is seventy eight years old and I hear about the horror stories that many seniors face from prescription drugs, understanding copays, to transportation to their appointments. I want to help or rather bring awareness to the issues. I know single handedly I can’t ride into town and save the day, but I do believe we are an interdependent society and we must help the vulnerable. We have a homeless issue here in Collin County and many people are shocked to hear that the influential county in Texas has a homeless issue, many are even more shocked to learn that many people that are homeless have jobs some even have degrees. The face of homelessness is changing due to lack of affordable housing. I think many people confuse “low income housing” and “affordable housing” there is a difference. I think the best way to help with issue is when developers and investors are looking to build a complex in our communities we need to have a dialogue on the pricing of units and if they will offer discounts to educators, healthcare workers, police, fire even the military. Primary and Mental health are topics I champion and well and I also applaud the current efforts being made to bring resources to our county to assist with the issue. I hope to continue those efforts.
Yitzi: Only one in five members of Congress is a woman. This manifests itself in laws that do not always take women’s needs into account. What needs to be done to create greater parity in our representation?
As a woman we definitely need a seat at the table. 2018 is a benchmark year of women stepping up and out to run for office starting at a city level all the way to the federal level and I love it. I think we are realizing that our voices need to be heard and action need to be taken, again we need a seat at the table. Who else will have our best interest in mind if we don’t?
Yitzi: This is clearly not an easy job. What drives you?
What drives me is knowing what I bring to the table. Diversity. Not even that I am an African American female but that I am a progressive minded individual. In my current role I ensure that partnerships happen, and communication is the key to that. I am transparent and love to connect with people. I believe I have a purpose in this.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first ran for office” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.).
You can’t do everything yourself. I heard that initially but it didn’t quite click until I got about a month in and I definitely had to get some volunteers and allocate some responsibilities from my household to events that I attend.
Your body language is important. I had a few people tell me initially that I looked intimidating so smile more. Now I genuinely smile when I enter a room and it makes a difference in how people connect with you.
It’s okay to say no. I want to attend all events, but realistically I can’t. I prioritize and attend the ones I can. Most events are recurring so if I can’t make it this week or month I schedule it for next month
Don’t take yourself so seriously. I truly believe the public wants someone that can laugh and not take themselves too seriously.
It’s okay to be scared. The decision to run for public office can be intimidating because you open not only yourself, but your family’s lives up to the public. That can be frightening, but it’s okay you have to take that fear and turn it into fuel. I know people who are running and terrified of speaking publicly I tell them it’s okay you are here for a purpose relax and let it flow. I don’t have fear of public speaking, but I still give myself a pep talk before I address any audience.