THE LOCAL GIRL WITH THE FUNNY NAME
I was born in Sunnyside and grew up in the Tri-Cities. I like to joke with people I don't know that my parents had intended to name me Shirley but that my mother was so tired after the labor that Shir was all she could manage to say. In actual fact my parents are naturalized citizens from Israel and Shir is the Hebrew word for song. Too bad for everybody I am super tone deaf and cannot sing.
After graduating from Kamiakin in 1992 I left the Tri-Cities to attend WSU in Pullman. I graduated from there with a BA in Foreign Languages and Literature (Cum Laude) in 1994. The volunteer work I did on campus with the YWCA opened the door for me to join the United States Peace Corps in 1995. I lived in Namibia for two years and was assigned to Opuwo as a Regional Youth Officer for the Ministry of Youth and Sport. I am very proud of the work I did there. With my Namibian counterparts and other volunteers we were able to open the first community generated Youth Resource Center in Namibia. What made the project so special was the building we converted into the center used to serve as the "whites only" officer's club for the South African Defense Forces stationed in Opuwo during Namibia's war for independence. In 2015 my partner, Melinda and I were able to swing by Opuwo and one of the most moving experiences of my life was seeing the Resource Center not only still there, but being used as a polling station for regional elections. Having the opportunity to re-invent a space with bad memories into a central part of the community is an amazing honor. When they say being in the Peace Corps is "the toughest job you'll ever love" it's no joke, but it's also true. Regardless of election outcome, if you have ever considered joining the Peace Corps, I will make time to answer your questions.
Somehow after returning from the Peace Corps I wound up enlisting in the United States Navy as an Electronics Technician (ET2/SW in case people are wondering). I am also incredibly thankful for my time in the Navy because it was so eye opening for me. Prior to my enlistment I had this stereotype in my head that the majority of people in the Armed Forces were just sort of "gun-ho." Nothing could be further from the truth. The military is reflection of our society as a whole. What I discovered is there are those people who enlist or commission because they feel a profound and genuine call to serve our country (and this is very honorable), but the majority of the men and women I served with joined because they wanted to attend university and the military was the only way they could afford it. I learned a lot from my shipmates, especially about how to keep an open mind. I am very proud to have served and am thankful every day for the men and women who continue to stand guard for the rest of us to exercise our rights and freedoms.
While in the Navy I became a certified lay leader for the Jewish community. There are very few Jewish chaplains and they are typically assigned to larger commands. I am not the most religious person you will meet, but I think it is very important for anyone who wants to pray to have the ability to pray in accordance with their faith. When I reported to my ship there were Jewish services and Jewish sailors were unable to get time off to attend Yom Kippur services at a nearby synagogue even though the command routinely granted special liberty for intramural sports teams. That is why I took it upon myself to approach my command and demand that Jewish sailors who wanted to attend Yom Kippur services be afforded the chance to go (assuming the ship was not at sea and there was no operational impact created by the sailor's absence). I also took lay leader certification training in San Diego, paying my own way to attend and continued to lead Sabbath Services for the next two years until I went to a command with a Rabbi. I share this with you in order to let you know when something is important to me, I will fight hard to make it happen.
Since returning to the area I've kept a low profile. I live in Richland with my partner Mel and work at Hanford as a Health Physics Technician. I understand what it is to live with job uncertainty. As an affected worker and a member of the bargaining unit I also know first hand how dangerous the work done on site is how crucial a strong union is to maintain a culture of safety. I also feel people's pain about waking up at four to be to work by six and then not get home until almost six at night. This paragraph is pretty short because the next chapter of my life is only just now starting to write itself. I hope it's a chapter we all write together for the Eighth LD.