“MY STRONG INCLINATION FOR PUBLIC SERVICE WAS INSPIRED BY MY PARENTS”
I am a born-and-raised Knoxvillian. I went to Bluegrass Elementary and Farragut Middle School. I ran track, was on the varsity soccer team, and was elected to student government at Farragut High School. I volunteered at Empty Stocking Fund, ChildHelp, and other non-profits as a leader of the Farragut Interact Club. From an early age, I felt compelled to be involved in and serve our community.
My strong inclination for public service was inspired by my parents. My dad, a Captain in the US Army, served in the Vietnam War. After finishing his military service, he practiced law in Knoxville. He was honored to be elected to the Tennessee State House of Representatives, serving the people of Knoxville’s District 18 from 1975-76.
My mom started her career as a registered nurse, working at several hospitals in Knoxville, including teaching and leading other nurses at Saint Mary’s Hospital. After a few years, she decided to become a lawyer as well, and she and my dad opened a law office together. Their practice focused on fighting for the rights of workers who had been injured while at work, in particular asbestos workers. They taught me the importance of fighting with and for those whose voices are often not heard or listened to.
“AFTER SPENDING MY FIRST 18 YEARS IN KNOXVILLE...”
After spending my first 18 years in Knox County, my education and career took me across the US and to the other side of the world. Growing up, I heard about the North American Free Trade Agreement and how Tennessee factories and jobs were moving to Mexico, hitting many Tennessee communities hard. I wanted to figure out what was going on and what could be done about it. At the University of Colorado, I majored in International Affairs and Latin American Studies, and studied abroad in Mexico two semesters. After college, I went back to Mexico with a labor delegation. To my surprise, I learned that Mexican workers were worried about their jobs going to China!
A couple years later, I went to China for the first time. The next year, I started teaching myself Mandarin, listening to CDs as I walked to work every day. After working as a legislative assistant in Washington, DC, for former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, I decided to move to China to study Mandarin and learn about that growing economic power firsthand.
I lived in China a total of almost five years, studied Mandarin, started a small jewelry company, and a served as a senior policy analyst at the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham). Between stints in China, I got my Master’s Degree in International Relations focusing on International Economics and China Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s program in Washington, DC.
In 2013, my mom began having some health issues. My priorities rapidly shifted from career to family, and I moved back to Knoxville from China to help her recover.
“I...VOLUNTEERED...TO FIND CONSENSUS SOLUTIONS TO IMPORTANT CHALLENGES OUR CITY FACED”
After being back in Tennessee about a year, I gathered a team of business people and educators from across the state to found TN-China Network, a non-profit with a mission to educate and connect people in Tennessee that do business with China. As executive director, I led the organization in its efforts to boost exports, attract Chinese investment, and create jobs in Tennessee. Now more than five years old, the organization’s educational and networking events, services, referrals, and online resources have benefited thousands of business people, companies, educational institutions, and students in Knoxville and across the state, by facilitating ground-up economic development and improved international business readiness.
As I worked to grow TN-China Network on the state level, I separately volunteered at the local level to find consensus solutions to important challenges our city faced, including modernizing Knoxville’s decades-old zoning code – a process otherwise known as ReCode. As leader of the Knox County Democratic Party (KCDP) ReCode Taskforce, from the summer of 2017, I coordinated our group’s multi-year effort to engage the community on ReCode. We advocated for a policy outcome that was fair and equitable for all Knoxvillians, particularly with regard to ReCode’s potential impact on the availability of affordable housing.
As a native Knoxvillian who has lived and worked across Tennessee, the US, and on the other side of the world, I plan to apply what I have learned over my 20-year career to be a unifying, consensus-building leader for the people of Tennessee State House District 16. I want to work together with you to make our city, county, and state a better place.