Click on Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s Twitter account and you might catch her and friends in the kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House after just having made dinner for the families staying there.
Or, you might just as easy see her serving as chairman of the House Elections Committee. An area of government as Ugenti-Rita explains is her belief the “ballot box” and elections are the “foundation of everything.”
When Candidates.vote caught up to Ugenti-Rita on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 the family’s Blue Apron box had just been delivered to her home, where she and her three children were all going gather in the kitchen to pitch in and make dinner from the ingredients. An activity with this three times candidate and election winner, explaining is one of her favorite things while not in Arizona’s House Chamber.
“I love doing the Blue Apron thing and even to order just random meals we’ve never heard of or tried,” Michelle said. “The kids love it and I dig the company’s concept. I’m a bit of a ‘nester’, a real homebody who loves spending time with the kids and with my brothers and sisters and their families.”
Clark H. Caras – “Rep. Ugenti-Rita, America was tuned in last evening to Georgia and the special election held there. Campaigns and campaigning are the trending issue that just won’t go away. What are your feelings as you head into another election cycle?”
Rep. Ugenti-Rita – “The political process in my book gets a bad rap. Yet, all of the freedoms we enjoy in our country see the genesis in the campaign process and that ballot box.”
Clark H. Caras – “That’s a very meaningful statement to make, which I’m guessing has a lot to do with you being the chairman of the House Elections committee?”
Rep. Ugenti-Rita — “Yes, it actually does have a lot to do with it. At the legislative level, you really can impact the government in a meaningful way. At that level you can do some very significant things; plus it’s a lot better than just sitting back and yelling at the television.”
Clark H. Caras – As I chortle – “Was saving this one; do you believe one person can make a difference?”
Rep. Ugenti-Rita – “Yes! That is exactly why I ran the first time. For me, I have always been fascinated with politics. All of the freedoms we enjoy in this nation are because one person somewhere, in history, or now; they wanted to be a part of this imperfect-yet, perfect Democracy and process. You bet I believe one person can make a difference.”
Clark H. Caras – “I have to ask then, those are incredible beliefs to hold and to share; but where along the line of living, did a successful commercial real estate agent with Levrose Real Estate Investment and Brokerage have this seed for political process planted?”
Rep. Ugenti-Rita – “That one is easy. My fascination with politics, policy and current affairs is a result of my dad taking me to coffee with him in the mornings when I was young. All of his friends would sit and talk about current events, history and candidates.
I loved it. Loved it! I learned from that to feel very lucky to be born in the United States. And it made me want to protect and promote what we are so lucky to have.”
Clark H. Caras – “So does dad know about this ‘political monster’ he helped create? Does he know now of the impactful thing he did by spending time with his young daughter.”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “He does know. In fact dad and I still get together for coffee and still talk current events and policy.”
Clark H. Caras – “Have to ask… you’re his legislator aren’t you?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “He most certainly is and it’s my honor to represent him and all of the people of the Valley’s District 23. And before you ask the obvious; no, dad and I don’t always agree on things. Things, yes, I might be involved with as his legislator.
I love it! My talking with dad helps me fine tune arguments I might be having in committee or with entire body. Helps me adjust, whether we agree or disagree.”
Clark H. Caras – “So how does Rep. Ugenti-Rita involve he own three children in the political process? Or, do you involve them?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “Absolutely, I involve them. As they’ve gotten older they have wanted to become more involved. I think they’re proud of their mom. I know I’m very proud of each of them.”
Before being able to ask another question, it’s evident Rep. Ugenti-Rita wants to share about her children and mom’s other life – that of being their state representative.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita — “As we prepare dinner, we talk about similar things as my father and I did over coffee together and with his friends.
During campaigns they have been very proud of themselves as they tell me they have told their friends to vote for their mom. They love going to the capital. It’s a nice influence for them to have in their lives.
They are my sign watchers and let me know if they’ve seen one that isn’t set up properly, or one that has disappeared. And in all of this, I’ve been able to see each of them have a variety of opinions – and not necessarily the same as mom.”
Clark H. Caras – “Ok. Coffee and dad help to shape an Arizona legislator who has been recognized as “Hero of the Taxpayer,” by Americans for Prosperity; “Guardian of Small Business,” by the National Federation of Independent Business; and “Legislator of the Year,” by the Arizona Humane Society.
What about your mom and her influence in modeling you and your two brothers and sisters?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “My mother is from Norway. And mom made sure we knew our heritage. In fact, dad and mom made it possible for our family to live in Norway.”
Clark H. Caras – “When did you live in Norway? And, do you think living overseas influenced you politically?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “We lived there from about second grade to graduating fourth grade. And yes, they have a very different government (Rep.Ugenti-Rita pauses as its evident she is comparing USA and Norway.). They are socialized, but for me democracy is best. I personally think our system is so great in developing entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Clark H. Caras – Having lived overseas (Greece and England) I shake my head in agreement with Rep. Ungenti-Rita as in a very contemplative way, states, “In America we can unlock the possibilities.”
Clark H. Caras – “Can you still speak the language?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “A bit, but I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins and we come back and forth to each other. So, I can understand pretty much all they say, but not fluent in being able to answer them.”
Clark H. Caras – “What would we be finding Rep. Michelle Ungenti-Rita reading when she is not studying issues?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “In any downtime I have at all; my enjoyment comes from reading periodicals. Interior design, gardening and cooking are the two that I give the most attention.”
Clark H. Caras – “What is something you can point to and see it as your biggest failure?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “A failure? Hmmm… I am cognizant of regret. But I’d rather have taken the chance and deal with the outcome, than have not taken the chance and never know.”
Clark H. Caras – “Do you see yourself at all as being one of the many who are “breaking the glass?
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “You should elect the person best for the job – not because they are woman, or a man. Or any other identity that comes under a photograph. “
Clark H. Caras – “Do you have a sort of “slogan” you might be known by?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “I’m an optimist. I don’t subscribe to not enough time… I just don’t buy it. ”
Clark H. Caras – “Okay. What is one last take-away we can give people about you?”
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita – “Easy. If I come up missing; you can find me in my garage scrapbooking.”
By Clark Caras