Garrett, a Democrat, is running against Jim Jordan, a Republican who has been serving since 2007. Having taught kindergarten for 12 years, Garrett was asked how that experience will help her in government and connect with people.
“Here’s the funny thing about that,” she said with a laugh. “I have had people tell me that teaching kindergarten would be good preparation for going to Congress. The only problem is I can’t put them in timeout if they’re misbehaving; only the voters can do that. That’s why we need the voters engaged and know what’s going on.”
Garrett earned her master’s degree in learning disabilities and social disorders from Kent State University. For 20 years of her 35-year teaching career, she was on the executive council of her teachers’ union.
“I was at the negotiating table many, many times,” Garrett said. “When you’re a public school teacher, (your) mission is to take care of everybody. And we don’t care where you came from. We don’t care what color you are, what religion you are – any of that; we just do the best by you.”
What she learned from her teachers’ union experience is “you have to go in with what you want and you come back with what you can live with and that’s the essence of compromise.”
“That’s what we’re not seeing going on in Congress right now,” Garrett added. “You have to be willing to listen to the viewpoint of the people on the other side and find the common ground. That’s the most important thing.”
Regardless of anyone’s political party, she said she expects to “listen to you and to represent your interests.”
Garrett has served as a Peace Corps volunteer. She taught fifth- and sixth-grade students English as a second language in Micronesia.
“That was a life-changing experience, as you can imagine. It helped to inform my social conscience and what I think is important and what isn’t,” Garrett said.
While in the Maple City in August, she met with Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan, the Huron County Chamber of Commerce and Norwalk Economic Development Corp. Garrett also attended a picnic with the Norwalk Teachers Association.
“We had a house party last night, meeting with supporters,” Garrett said. “I’ve been to Norwalk many times.”
Having “worked with families from all walks of life,” Garrett said she’s “been in the shoes of people in the middle class” and knows what those struggles are.
The Democratic candidate said she’s deeply concerned about “the deep divide” she is seeing in the country.
“We have to focus more on what unites us. There is much more that unites us than what divides us,” Garrett said. “I want to make it clear I am not completely happy with the Democratic leadership or the Republican leadership right now. I think there is far too little attention given to the middle class.”
The statewide opioid crisis is an important topic for her.
“I am very concerned about the opioid epidemic. I don’t think it’s getting any where the attention it needs,” said Garrett, who has heard from every county that overdose deaths are a No. 1 concern. “Every county is doing what they can, but they are doing programs with failing wire and duct tape.”
Garrett shared the story of a woman with a bubbly personality who was prescribed pain medication. She became addicted to heroin and eventually died from an overdose. Her parents are raising her two daughters.
“When I met with the family, everybody in the family was blaming themselves for (her) death, but it wasn’t their fault. This is a perfect example where the government has a responsibility to do for us collectively what we can’t do as individuals,” Garrett said.
Another area of concern is the spike in the cost of health care.
“We are the last industrialized country to get health care for all of our citizens,” said Garrett, who noted many people have to go into “massive debt” to pay their medical bills.
“We need to get good, quality health care for everyone and that includes hospitalization, vision, hearing, dental, addiction, rehabilitation, nursing homes, mental health – everything that has to do with health. It needs to be available for all of our citizens.”