Interview with Representative Christina Hagan

Success is about passion, not a diploma.

Representative Christina Hagan, an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member and Midwestern Chair of the ALEC Women’s Caucus, is the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio State House of Representatives. She is also an avid supporter of free markets and limited government, was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and is enjoying her first year of motherhood. In honor of Women’s History Month, she sat down with ALEC staffer Laurel Buckley to discuss what makes for effective policy in the states.

We discussed before how all issues are women’s issues. I know you have a wide range of policy you must research and vote on. During the 2016 legislative session, what is one of your primary legislative goals?

Efficiency and effectiveness. I’m currently working on reviewing the Ohio Legislative Code to ensure that there are not repetitive, dated or unnecessary statutes in place. I’m starting with education. Oftentimes overregulation is placed on teaching facilities without thought of basic conservative principles based on limited government. This particular project focuses on how we can stop obstructive policies while still ensuring we are setting quality standards.  

Last year, you won Forbes’ 30 under 30. What made you stand out on that list? 

If you review the list, you will see that I am likely the lone conservative female. Many young women believe in core conservative values and have a commitment to the principles of liberty but do not always feel comfortable speaking up. I understand that free markets are central to a stable economy and I am glad to work for and share this good news – this may be what sets me apart. 

I know that some of the nation is trending otherwise due to current frustrations with a broken system. More and more young people are following liberal ideals, which you can see in the recent primary election discussions.  But I believe this is an opportunity to spread our vision and win hearts and minds. Our nation seems to be trending toward liberal leaders, but not because they have the sound policy answers; it’s because they have the attractive talking points.

Why do you think that is? 

Because conservative leaders haven’t effectively communicated their message. Communicating how important economic stability is to hardworking taxpayers and the future of every American is important to the people we are serving. That’s why I’m working to combat that failed communication style from my office. My staff member Victoria and I work around the clock using social media and traditional forms of outreach to ensure constituents are in the know on what we stand for, how we are voting and what policy we are moving, giving them an understanding of our vision and ensuring transparency, access and always open communication. 

You mention working with a younger generation. As a new mom, how are you a role model for your daughter and the next generation of women? 

As a new mom, I understand the need to protect the integrity of our state and national economy for future generations. My work is done to ensure that there is a balanced budget, that lawmakers in Ohio are cutting taxes for working families, and that we are doing everything that we can to see the economy flourish.  

I am a strong believer that women can do anything and many things simultaneously. I feel called to illustrate some of our strengths outside of the status quo so that the culture can begin to trend more towards supporting working families. I do not believe government needs to mandate anything in order for a woman to be successful long-term. I am of the attitude that we can and we will succeed but we have to set the example in a mindful and respectful fashion; it always takes a little time to change hearts and minds.

I bring my daughter to work with me every day and she is a constant reminder of what I am working toward. It’s not my future I’m planning for – it’s hers. She is my inspiration to do more and be more, and I am sure she is empowering others to do the same.

What benefits do you receive from your participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council?

ALEC is empowering. Because I am a young female legislator, people often have assumptions about my political beliefs. At ALEC, I align with people who have very similar focus and principles as I do without being made to feel guilty or ashamed for those beliefs. 

At ALEC I can focus on policy. I can access logical research and read through publications based on factual information. Some organizations may pressure legislators to look at policy based on emotion. [Others] get caught up thinking that as a young woman, I should have a certain mindset.

At ALEC I find reliable resources, connected to my principles and beliefs. ALEC understands the need for job growth and economic stability. While others may discuss how policy affects businesses, ALEC is working directly with business experts; ALEC policy is directly connected to actual economic possibilities and what is needed for economies to flourish. 

What legacy do you want to be known for after you leave office? 

I don’t want to be remembered by party lines, but rather as someone who cared for and fought for her community. 

If someone calls into my office, we don’t ask what party they are with; instead we ask how we can serve that person. I want my constituents to know that they are a part of government and can come to me.

I want to be known as someone who encourages other young individuals to join in the political process. As the youngest female to serve in the Ohio legislature, it is important to me that other young individuals feel empowered to work in public service if they find their passion there. 

Every voice matters. It takes all walks of life to be the best representation and reflection of the people we serve.

Nowadays, people are viewing a college diploma as the sole ticket to success – and they are going into massive debt to get one, even if it won’t be useful in their careers. It’s just as important for people to learn trades. Success is about passion, not a diploma

We need to continually support a culture that respects and honors all types of education and work, not just those completed in the confines of a traditional classroom. I want to make sure opportunities, not burdens, exist for all to start a life with purpose and have an opportunity as an ordinary person to do great things.

I came from a family of hardworking and intelligent people. Uniquely though, I am the first in my family to have a college degree, also the first to have massive debt upon entering my adult life. My parents are the owners of a small business, Hagan Heating and Plumbing, successful now for 60 years. I have learned nearly everything I know from them, and neither had my business degree. I waited tables until I was 36 weeks pregnant to work to pay off my student debt.

I’m an average citizen, and I stepped into office because I saw the need and the ability as a normal person to do something great for our community. I hope others will, too, and I encourage them to get involved.