Sheri Donahue wants to engineer a better KY Senate

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Sheri Donahue has been an engineer. She’s worked in cyber security. She’s led national organizations. She’s worked in D.C., and she’s briefed admirals.

Now she wants to take all her engineering and professional and problem-solving experience, and use it to make Kentucky’s state senate better.

Sheri Donahue’s back story

Sheri grew up in Louisville, with a dad that owned a construction company and served as a volunteer firefighter, and a mom that went to work at Naval Ordnance when the kids started school. (Her parents still live in same house that Sheri grew up in.) Sheri graduated from high school in 1986.

At Naval Ordnance, Sheri’s mom worked around engineers, and one of them convinced Sheri to go into engineering at Purdue. She got a degree in industrial engineering and joined her mom working at Naval Ordnance. Engineering back then was a heavily male-dominated field, and Sheri was only the second female engineer in the entire department. That didn’t deter her, though: “I’ve always been about taking on a challenge, and working in engineering was just something I wanted to do. So, I did it.”

Sheri worked on various programs at Naval Ordnance, including weapons systems. As one of the engineers, she not only had to help design them; she also had to help explain them. So, even though she was only in her 20s, she found herself briefing various admirals about the systems she was working on.

When she left Naval Ordnance, she worked on a number of intelligence programs. She got transferred to Washington, D.C., and was living in Louisville and commuting to Washington each week. Finally, with her son in high school, she decided it was time to stop the traveling, so she got a Louisville-based job with Humana in cyber security.

While in Washington, she had done some work with the FBI on cyber security as a volunteer, and wound up joining InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and private companies for sharing information around cyber-security threats. She eventually became a member of the national board, then national president. So when she came to Humana, they created a position for her working on cyber-security partnerships with other industry sectors.

Sheri Donahue’s political story

What is your background in politics?

“I’ve always been engaged and paying attention, especially during my time working in DC and in InfraGard. But my focus has always been about having a big picture and trying to see the entire situation. You can use the engineering discipline in so many areas, because you learn to do problem solving. How can we optimize the solution to provide the best for the people we represent?”

Why did you decide to run this year?

“I’ve wanted to run for office for a long time. I wanted to bring back protections and good policies for working people. And, as a way to pay back the government for the opportunities I’ve had. And, I’ve had all these experiences, which have given me a very diverse and unique background. I want to use that to help Kentucky.”

If you’ve wanted to run for a long time, what triggered it at this time?

“Humana was going to do a big RIF (reduction in force) in early 2018, and I knew that I would be part of it. I wasn’t worried, because I’ve always landed on my feet in the past.

“I knew I wanted to run for office, but I hadn’t filed. So, I started looking for a job. A colleague from InfraGard had become head of TSA, so I called him to see if there was a position I could apply for. And he had one. But, it was a Senate-confirmed position, and I was told the confirmation might be challenging, since I’m a Democrat. I told them I needed to think about it.

“The job was one I knew I would love; but on the other hand, if I took the job, I couldn’t run for office. The idea of running was so strong, I decided not to pursue the TSA job and run for office instead.”

So how’s the campaign going?

Rob Walker & Sheri Donahue
Sheri Donahue (Senate candidate) with Rob Walker (House candidate)

“It’s been special. People I’ve known since first grade are helping me on the campaign. Family members, cousins, friends – they’re all in it with me.

“I have had one challenge, though. I did so much walking to knock on doors and campaign that I wound up getting a stress fracture in my ankle. I have a knee scooter I have to use, so I tell people I’m not running for office, but rolling for office.”

Sheri Donahue’s main issues

What are your main issues?

“My biggest issue is things that affect working families. If I’m elected, I want to repeal ‘right-to-work’ and reinstate the prevailing wage law. I want to make sure we provide an attractive place for people to come and bring their families. Good benefits, good schools, benefits for kids to go to college or get additional training.

“And pensions. My boyfriend is a retired firefighter, with retiree health insurance and a pension. He may made a different decision about retiring if he had known the numbers might change. When we put a promise in place for our workers, we have to keep those promises and not change the rules in the middle of the game.

“A key question about pensions is this: Now that we’ve changed the pension program for firefighters and law enforcement officers, will we still get good quality people?”

What else?

“Opioid addiction. We need to legalize medical marijuana. It can help with opioid addiction, pain management, and PTSD. And another benefit of legalized marijuana is the taxation possibilities.

“Gaming. I know people who love going to the boat, and all that money is just going across the river. Why should all that money go to Indiana?

“Public education is important for everyone, even if your kids go to private schools, because the community we live in, and the success of our state, will be affected by the education of all Kentuckians.”

What are your thoughts on the legislative session just ended?

“I was very concerned about the lack of transparency, keeping things from both constituents and fellow lawmakers. Voting on things without time to read the bill. When I was president of InfraGard we would always publish the minutes of the board meetings. And, we always practiced an open door policy on our meetings. If you do something behind closed doors, even if what you do is good it still will seem that something is wrong with it.

“The Governor’s actions on the state Board of Education were very heavy-handed. I think he’s determined to be a one-term governor, and it appears that he wants to do as much damage as possible before he gets out. He’s just trying to help himself and his friends.”

What did you think of all the protesters? Did they do any good?

“I’m not sure they did. Their voices were outside the room; they weren’t inside the room. We need to get voices inside the room. That’s why I’m really glad to see teachers running for office.”

If you could change one thing in Kentucky, what would it be?

“Legalized gaming. The benefit to the economy would impact so many other issues we are dealing with.”

Sheri Donahue, tell me why I should vote for you.

“I am a native Louisvillian. I grew up here. And the interests of this state are part of who I am. I’m an engineer, who knows how to solve problems. You should vote for me to send me to Frankfort to work on solutions that serve all Kentuckians.”

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You can visit Sheri’s campaign site here, and her Facebook page here.

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Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016. He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.