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Breaking the Ice: Kelly Fenton – From educator to legislator

Title: Representative, District 53B

Education: B.A., education, Marquette University; M.Ed., administration and supervision of schools, University of Houston.

Rep. Kelly Fenton, a Woodbury Republican, has gone from behind-the-scenes volunteer to public service, elected to her first legislative term in 2015. Her introduction of several education-related bills reflects an interest in the subject stemming from her former career as a schoolteacher and school administrator, primarily in Texas. She familiarizes herself with most bills before they go to the floor as vice chair of the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee, which designates the bills that go on the House calendar.

 

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Just smile and say hello, because I know no strangers. I’ll talk to anybody. It’s easy to get a conversation started with me. It’s my personality because I love people and I find people interesting. I’ve never been afraid to talk to anybody.

Q: Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A: The first presidential candidate that I voted for was Ronald Reagan. There was something about him. He inspired me. I found him to be so likable and genuine at that time.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: I’m currently reading “The Rumor,” by Elin Hilderbrand. It’s like a romance novel, kind of a beach read. I love it because most of her books take place on Nantucket Island. I love the beach, I grew up around the water and it takes me away to a happy place.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Being late; people who are always late. I’ve always tried to do my best to be on time. When my husband or my kids drag their feet to get going… I appreciate people who are on time. I can’t always be punctual, but I try to be; there’s a general understanding around here as it gets busy, which is good. But outside of the Capitol, I always try to be punctual.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: Being with my family and running with the dogs. I’ve got two very lovable dogs. Taking them to the dog park and letting them run, those are things that I love to do. I have an 87-pound cadoodle — half collie, half poodle — and then a 15-pound cockapoo — half cocker, half poodle. We like the poodle mix. They don’t shed and they’re really smart.

Q: Who inspired you to get into public service?

A: I’ve always been a person that loved [being] behind the scenes. To step out front, [the inspiration] was probably my dad. I had an interest in politics because I served student government in school. He kept saying it’s so easy to get involved. Slowly as my kids got older I got more and more involved. The reality is if you volunteer it’s not hard to get involved at all because people are so willing to take the help.

Q: What’s one way to end partisan polarization?

A: I’m not afraid to talk to anyone, including Democrats. My dad was a Democrat, my mom was a Republican — so I grew up with a lot of thoughtful conversations in the home. As a new freshman legislator we did a freshman retreat. It was nonpartisan and it was everybody. I have a good friend from the other side of the aisle out of that. Getting to know one another outside of the political scene, sharing a meal together, I think that really helps. And just being willing to extend a hand — you can work with the other side without compromising your own principles.

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