A while ago I attended a Republican campaign event at Reid Park. The three Republican candidates for city council
were there, and each spoke. All spoke well, but Margaret Burkholder
drew everyone’s attention away from their cheeseburgers and chips.
Her story highlighted lessons learned from childhood to her tenure on the
Vail school board. When she was a child, she struggled with math. She told her mother that it was hard, and her mother said, “That’s OK, we’re not all good at math.” Lesson: Don’t offer a child an excuse. She always wanted to teach, so when heading off to college, she decided to major in education and history or language arts - none of which were mathematics. Everything was fine until her history professor told her not to major in history, but to major in math, explaining that there were plenty of history teachers but not enough math teachers. She said, “But I’m not good at math.” He said, “Why did you struggle?” She said, “Because I had a bad teacher.” He said, “Exactly.” Four years later, she graduated with a degree in education and mathematics. Lesson: If you are going to serve, fulfill the need, not your desires.
Burkholder served as a math teacher for ten years before taking time off to raise her children. During that time she was elected to the Vail school board
. She became a member of the board that took the district from a rating of around the 50th percentile to numero uno
. Then the board members identified the key targets that lead to success and offered the info to other districts. The school districts in the towns of Benson and Ash Forks adopted the practices and they excelled too.
At a later date, I asked her what her life was like growing up. As a military kid, Burkholder moved a lot attending eighteen different schools by the time she graduated high school. From the military, her father went to work for U.S. Customs and she lived along the southern border, mostly in the west. She met her husband, John, in college.
Having had no real home as a child, Burkholder values roots in a community. It is her underlying motivation for her candidacy. She would like to have a place in our community for her children and her children’s children. She sees an important role for grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. She thinks about a couple, friends of her family, who, after having a beautiful wedding for their child, helped the couple pack to move to Texas where the jobs are. What will their grandparenting experience be? She wants Tucson to be a place where people - like her children - can sink those roots. She sees Tucson as becoming something other than that place.
I asked her what she would do upon assuming office. She said that she would “look at the budget”
. She would prioritize spending on those things enumerated in the city charter, then look at the rest. When asked what she held as a vision for Tucson, she (not surprisingly) spoke of an “education pipeline” that ran from elementary education through college including an emphasis on J-TED type programs
. Burkholder believes that education, including both vocational and higher education, will attract new business and help create more local businesses that will help lower poverty and generally support Tucson families.
She was approached a number of times by Republicans to run for the Ward IV
council seat. She repeatedly refused. Finally, they said, “OK, if not you, who?” That’s when she took on the candidacy. Lesson: If you are going to serve, fulfill the need, not your desires.