Dee Dawkins-Haigler, a Georgia state representative, actually began her career in public service in South Carolina. There, she was appointed to the juvenile parole board by Gov. Jim Hodges. Eventually, she went on to chair the board, becoming the youngest woman and first African-American woman to hold the position. Since 2008, though, she has been serving in the Georgia House. She rose to leadership positions quickly, being appointed as assistant minority whip in just her second year in office. Juvenile justice issues remain close to her heart. She regularly hosts “youth town halls” to give young people an opportunity to voice their opinions, learn about the political process and meet elected officials.
Dawkins-Haigler is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and she is the executive director of TIME 1000, a group that helps minorities and women win elections for public office. Through her work with that organization, she’s helped train women from several central African countries on issues of gender and education, and on how to seek and secure public office. “As a child I watched as the voting rights of marginalized groups was infringed upon,” she told the Rockdale News, “and I decided that I had to be an agent of change.”