Public service and solving problems for people has been my life’s work.
I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, the daughter of public school teachers. My parents had a deep sense of civic duty. However, my story took an unusual turn when my father, a professor, decided to quit his job and start a business selling paper animal hats! But the business went under during the recession of the 1990s, and my family went bankrupt. This was a very difficult time for us, but we persevered through the hardship thanks to family, friends, neighbors and our community rallying around us.
I was able to pursue a college degree because my country invested in me through public grants and federal loans. I worked hard and earned a Bachelor's from Yale, a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in public administration with a focus on public finance from Syracuse University. My dad told me when I graduated, “Carolyn, this country has invested in you. Now, you must give back to your country.”
My husband Jeff and I moved to Suwanee because this area is a great place to raise a child. We were attracted to the great schools, great parks and natural beauty. We had also hoped our home would make it easier for our aging parents to visit and potentially move in with us if needed.
Like many citizens of this area, however, my parents struggled with the cost of health care. In fact, their health care costs became so burdensome that they couldn’t afford their medications, much less to pick up and move. My mother cared for my aging and very sick father until they both passed away in 2017. All of their discretionary income was eaten up paying for medications, including ones to treat my father’s diabetes. This problem is not at all unique to my family, and in fact, by many standards, we are lucky. So many of us have horror stories about our health care system. And one reason I’m running for Congress is I firmly believe we can do better.
I have spent my life working to create public services and policies that would truly help people. I started my career as an aide to Senator Ron Wyden, working on health care, education, women’s issues, social issues and transportation. One of the most important lessons I learned there was how to stretch federal dollars so we could help people without leaving the next generation to drown in debt.
Among my many projects, I worked on an innovative program to better connect transportation with land use planning and design. This was a precursor to the Livable Communities Project that has revitalized many downtown communities here in the 7th District. I also worked on legislation that helped expand access to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and access to Federally Qualified Health Centers while saving the federal government money.
I have been a Professor at the Andrew Young School of Public Policy since 2003. From 2007 to 2010, I took a leave of absence to be Director of Georgia’s Senate Budget and Evaluation Office. There, I worked in a nonpartisan role to help the state balance the budget during the Great Recession.
The Senate honored me for significant service to the state of Georgia with Senate Resolution 1598. Afterward, I returned to the Andrew Young School and founded the Center for State and Local Finance to teach the next generation of leaders about responsible and compassionate public policy.
I’ve never been content to sit behind a desk. In this unsettled and difficult time, running for Congress is a continuation of my commitment to finding ways to help my neighbors and my community through public service.