Panel description: Elected officials with disabilities, as well as those who have run for office or who are increasing the visibility of disabled candidates come together for a conversation on the importance of disability representation in elected officials.
Panelists: Natalie Alden, Sarah Blahovec, Karolyn Campbell, and Kara Tucker
Natalie Alden has worked with Disability Rights Florida for over 18 years. Her current role with Disability Rights Florida is Representative Payee Program Operations Coordinator. Natalie has worked in the disability field for over thirty years and has led initiatives to improve access for citizens with disabilities throughout the state of Florida and nationwide. She actively participates on state and local councils to help improve the lives of people with disabilities, as well as, grassroot empowerment groups and one-on-one education. She believes on educating individuals on being strong self-advocates and encourages them to be more active in the disability rights movement, including getting on local, state and federal government boards/offices. She has also worked with companies and organizations on creating a more accessible environment through disability sensitivity, and creating/revising policies and procedures. She also served on the Craig Colorado City Council from 1999 – 2002.
Sarah Blahovec is a disability civic engagement consultant with expertise on voting rights and barriers to running for office for people with disabilities. She is the creator of Elevate: Campaign Training or People with Disabilities, the first national run for office training program for people with disabilities. Sarah is the former Voting Rights and Civic Engagement Director for the National Council on Independent Living, where she advocated for greater accessibility in elections; educated the disability community on voting rights and works to energize a disability voting bloc; and addressed barriers to running for office for people with disabilities. As part of her work, she also created “Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff,” which has been used widely by campaigns and organizations to make their spaces more accessible to people with disabilities. Sarah has worked as the Disability Community Engagement Manager for the Democratic National Committee. She is a graduate of American University with a degree in International Studies.
Supervisor Karolyn C. Campbell, Orange Soil and Water Conservation District, is the first blind elected official in Florida and qualified to seek reelection on the November 2022 ballot. She is a passionate servant leader, scientist, and engineer, holds six undergraduate and graduate degrees and focuses on environmental education, life cycle sustainment, and soil and water protection. An immigrant, U.S. Citizen, and minority woman, she is a speaker, mentor, and champions initiatives for those with visible and invisible disabilities, accessibility, diversity, women, marginalized communities, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and careers in Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for creative solutions. She has full-time federal and part-time Walt Disney World positions and volunteers on several boards. She continues to be a servant leader and change agent seeking creative solutions.
Kara Wade Tucker. She was born two months early and weighed 3 lbs. 3 oz. Because of complications during delivery, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy which affected her balance and ability to walk. Her disability did not hold her back from accomplishing her goals. In fact, her challenges gave her strength and a passion for everything she does, especially advocating for people with disabilities. Ms. Tucker has served as Chief of Disabled Services for the City of Jacksonville. Since 2019. She currently serves as City liaison for the Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board and the Mayor’s Disability Council. Ms. Tucker graduated with honors from UNF. She earned a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She completed postgraduate work at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama where she received a Graduate Certificate of Rehabilitation Leadership and Management. At age 24, Ms. Tucker was the youngest-elected female official in the State of Florida. She ran her own campaign and served two 4-year terms on City Council in Neptune Beach, which included 2 years as Vice Mayor. During this time, she spearheaded a handicap access at the beach, including appropriate signs and a MOBI mat. Being a volunteer is second nature to Ms. Tucker. She has served in her community for over 20 years, beginning as a girl scout. She has proudly served on numerous boards, such as the Mayor’s Disability Council, which she co-chaired for 2007 and 2008, while she attended college. Ms. Tucker was appointed by two State of Florida Governors to serve on the Florida Rehabilitation Council, where she served as Chair. She was appointed by the Commissioner of Education to serve on the State Advisory Committee for the Education of Exceptional Students. Ms. Tucker is committed to advocating for all people with all types of disabilities and has spent numerous “personal leave days” meeting with legislators and/or their staff to promote awareness, emphasize employment and educate the public regarding disability issues. Ms. Tucker is the recipient of many awards, including the Mayor’s Young Women with Vision Award, the UNF Award for Community Involvement, the UNF Young Alumni Achievement Award, the Jaycees Outstanding Young Floridian Award, the Florida Developmental Disability Council Adelio Valdez Leadership and Advocacy Award, and the Association of Rehabilitation Facilities Mary Thiel Award.
Striving for independence Danielle McGill, born with cerebral palsy overcomes many obstacles, but has not let life’s challenges define her. Presently, she works at Ann Storck Center as the Advocacy Coordinator. In this role, she developed the A Ride Away Program. The Program assists individuals with disabilities in navigating various modes of transportation throughout Florida. Ms. McGill’s compassion, experience, and tenacity enable her to identify and secure the resources individuals with disabilities need. Ms. McGill advocates statewide and nationally for all individuals with disabilities on various councils, boards, and committees. Danielle was recognized with the Idelio Valdes Advocacy and Leadership Award for her work to support the personal growth of individuals on their journey to independence. Danielle’s journey shows what self-determination is against all odds. Presently, she provides consultations, training, and resource materials using Empower Possibilities.