Jon Hoadley, who was born and raised in Vermillion, South Dakota, says he was drawn to politics when he realized “its power to fight against discrimination.” Elected in 2014 as state representative for Michigan’s 60th District, the 32-year-old Democrat says he now sees the power of politics not only to fight discrimination but to help ordinary people in surprising ways.
How is Jon Hoadley the everyday person different from Jon Hoadley the politician?
I’m not actually an extrovert. When you’re doing political work, you have to be out there and engaged and shake everybody’s hands. I don’t mind doing that because I like people. I’m pretty high-energy, friendly and outgoing, but I’m little more of an introvert, so I have to make sure that I’m doing quiet reflection. And if I don’t get that time to reflect and be alone, I get grumpy.
And what happens when you get grumpy?
I’m like the guy on that Snickers commercial (he says, laughing, as he refers to television commercials in which grumpy, hungry people are only sated by a Snickers candy bar). But, seriously, I just try to approach every day assuming the best intent from every person. Even when I disagree with other politicians, I try to think about the good intentions they may have. And it gets harder for me to do that if I don’t have time to recharge my batteries.
What is the most rewarding part of being a state representative?
When you actually get to help someone, sometimes just by writing a letter or making a phone call. One story that sticks with me the most is when a woman called our office because she was scheduled to host a wedding in her back yard over the weekend but had paid her electric bill late. The power was shut off on a Friday at 2 p.m., and it wasn’t going to be turned back on until Monday. So we were able to pick up the phone and connect with Consumers Energy to get that problem solved.
We’ve done that for people having issues with unemployment, taxes, property issues and more. We have the power to make calls to bring attention to issues, not every time, but when we do, it feels great.
What do you find least rewarding?
The politics that come with being a state representative. It can be emotionally difficult when you’re in a room voting on a contentious bill and people say things that frustrate you, or you strongly feel that a vote just occurred that will harm Michigan. And then 30 seconds later, we’re all coming together and standing side by side to recognize a veteran or resident who does amazing work in the community. The emotional reset you have to go through can be very draining.
Do you think there are misconceptions about politics and politicians?
Yes. People think that we fight all the time, and that’s just not true. Most of the legislation we pass is nearly unanimous. For example, we’re all working on a joint project for the Bundle Up campaign to help people get more coats and mittens for the winter.
I enjoy working with Rep. (Brandt) Iden on a number of issues because he represents Portage and I represent Kalamazoo. He’s also a first-term Republican, and we’re both in the 35-and-under crowd. So it’s great that we can get together and empathize with what the other person is going through as we learn how to best represent Michigan.
What keeps you up at night?
Not being able to solve everyone’s problems. There’s this one gentleman that’s been on my mind for the last few months. He’s a veteran, and he wasn’t getting the type of services he needed and had bad experiences with the VA. I told him that there were things we could do to help and gave him my card and told him, “Call me, so we can see what we can get done.” He hasn’t called me, and I don’t know where he lives.
I hope his situation improves because here’s someone that served our country and he deserves our finest services back. I’ve been looking for him with the little information that I have, but I can’t find him. So if he ends up reading this article, I invite him to call me so we can get him the help that he needs.
What’s life like at home for Jon Hoadley?
Home life for me is spending time with my dog Benjamin, who is the best beagle in the world. I love to cook and go grocery shopping at the farmers’ market or Meijer and think about what I’m going to cook for the week. I like baking cookies and trying out new recipes. This is a little home and politics, but I like to bring cookies to the office once a week.
My partner Kris does building maintenance type of work, so there’s always some sort of unfinished construction project going on at my house. The current one is a bathroom renovation project that’s been going on for several months now. Hopefully it’s done by the time this comes to print.
In the summer, life is cooking out. In the winter, it’s trying not to freeze.