Holly J. Mitchell is the CEO of Crystal Stairs, an organization that I have long admired. Unless you are a working mother, you cannot imagine how crucial child care is to the entire economy. If you are a working single mother, child care is just slightly more important than running water or electricity. So, Mitchell’s professional gig already had me sympathetic to her stand, and interested in her run for office.
The child of two public employees, Holly Mitchell’s commitment to community began in elementary school as a student volunteer in a congressional campaign and led to student activism and a Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. Working with then-Senator Diane Watson and the Health and Human Services Committee, she fought to expand health care and other vital services for Californians. At the Western Center for Law and Poverty she helped develop, implement and increase enrollment in the groundbreaking Healthy Families program. As president of Crystal Stairs, she guides one of the largest childcare and development non-profits in California, improving the lives of families through childcare services, research and advocacy.
After spending over a decade in Sacramento working on health policy issues for the State Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, for CA LEADS (formerly known as CEWAER), and for the California Black Women’s Health Project, Holly left her role as a public interest advocate for low-income working families to return to Los Angeles and focus her attention on child care policy.
As a working mother of a fourth grader, Holly understands the needs of the working families. She heads one of the largest child development agencies in California, providing access to daily child care services for nearly 25,000 children. While leading a multi-million dollar social services organization that must meet payroll, compete for funding, contract with entrepreneurs and deliver services, Holly’s public policy expertise enabled the agency to enlarge its role in shaping California child care policy and providing top-notch services even in tough economic times.
Her success in public policy and role in training new leaders has resulted in recognition statewide from the National Women’s Political Caucus-Westside Chapter, Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI), Black Women for Political Action (BWOPA), the California Black Women’s Health Project and, most recently, her recognition by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as his 2009 Woman of the Year.
So, is single motherhood really a gateway to community service? It has to be, for we are the ones who know what our community means to our children, and how important it is that we work together. As the proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child. We need public leaders that are going to make sure that our village gets what it needs to raise those children.