Spotlight On Virtual Cohort Member: Raisa Romaelle
Raisa Romaelle is a matrimonial and family lawyer, focusing on Florida divorce, paternity, child support, alimony, adoptions and enforcement. A participant in the Summer 2018 Virtual Cohort, Raisa hopes to run for a judicial position and serve her local community. Get to know Raisa and how the Cohort strengthened her desire to run while also providing tools and a supportive community to start her journey.
When did you realize you wanted to run for office? What was your wake up call? I have dedicated my entire career to helping children, families and vulnerable adults. Along the way, I have come to truly value and appreciate the lasting impact a good judge can have on a case. I have been fortunate enough to work in a district with a strong and diverse judiciary, and have felt truly inspired by the men and women who work tirelessly to interpret and apply the rule of law. As some of them have reached retirement, I realized I want to contribute to ensuring our district maintains that level of excellence while at the same time making my own contributions to help streamline processes to deal with some of the challenges faced in the courtroom. Challenges such as an overburdened docket, scheduling delays and the need for additional resources to help litigants resolve their disputes are all important issues.
How were you introduced to the Virtual Cohort and what drew you to it? I read about the cohort online and thought it was a great way for me to start thinking about how to position myself for a successful campaign for judge in my community. I heard many positive stories about women who completed the program and remember being very excited to get the opportunity to meet strong and powerful leaders across the country, who were also thinking about running for office.
What’s your personal mission related to running for office and why? My personal mission is to raise the standards of what is expected of a member of the judiciary. You have to be a good listener, ask the right questions, pay close attention to details, have the right temperament, be compassionate and have a firm grasp on the law. Above all, a good judge must understand the long-term impact decisions have on people’s lives and actively work to improve the system to benefit the community.
How do you think being a woman of color has shaped your ideas around leadership and running for office? As a Latina, I have a unique perspective. I am a child of immigrants, who were able to achieve the American dream through hard work and perseverance despite racial discrimination and sexism in the workplace. My mother and grandparents arrived in this country from Cuba with only the clothes on their backs, and through with their own blood, sweat and tears, achieved all they set out to do. Their work ethic and unwavering desire to improve and enrich their own lives motivated me to educate myself and become the person I am today. My family experience has taught me that community leaders must be inclusive and listen to the concerns and challenges minorities face. Although a growing minority, women and Latinos are still underrepresented in government.
How did the Cohort help you clarify your leadership vision and tell your personal story? The program taught me the importance of telling my own personal story as a way of connecting with my community. Who I am and the road I have traveled is an important asset and only contributes to my ability to be a strong and compassionate leader. As a family advocate, a woman, a mother, a minority and a domestic violence survivor, my experiences have shaped the way I see the world. My journey has given me the tools I need to better understand the hardship and sense of hopelessness often faced by minorities and children who feel misunderstood, and often times, ignored.
How did the Virtual Cohort help you overcome your fears around running for office & specifically, dealing with sexism? I think an eye-opener for me was coming to terms with my own self-doubt and fear of being criticized for being a divorced, single mother, who also happens to be Latina. Having worked in environments where my experiences reinforced this fear, the program helped me acknowledge this fear and push onward ensuring it does not interfere with my path to success. As one of my colleagues in the program told me in one of our one-on-one meetings, “iron sharpens iron” and I am so grateful to her and this program for helping me reach that awareness. The experience allowed me to learn that my unique experiences are not disadvantages, but strengths to help me connect with and give a voice to members of the community who have had similar experiences in their lives.
What steps have you taken towards your future run for office? I have spoken to judges who have shared some of the challenges they face and have enlightened me on what it takes to achieve the goal of running for office. I have set important deadlines for myself and I have observed several local campaigns to better understand the process.
Lastly, as someone who has participated in the Cohort and now plans to run for public office, what advice would you give to a woman who is unsure about running for office? Believe in yourself and your calling. Believe in that force that has led you to this program and be deliberate in your purpose. Trust your intuition. Acknowledge your fears, but do not let those fears obstruct your path and your vision to run for office. You have your own story to tell. What makes you different is what sets you apart and will connect with others. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to share who you are because who you are is what will win the hearts of your constituents.