Like most military families, the Mattas have a lot going on–to say the least. Capt. Eugenio Matta is a bio-environmental engineer at Edwards Air Force Base in California. His wife, Tatiana, is a public relations professional who is simultaneously pursuing her master’s degree and serving as a trustee of their local school district. They also have a 13-year-old son named Kevin who has a packed schedule between school and extracurricular activities. And, despite their busy lives, Tatiana Matta is proving a run for elected office is possible for military spouses around the US as she currently campaigns for California’s 23rd congressional district.
A passion for service
Tatiana says that she’s always had a love for service.
“From an early age, I knew that I wanted to be a public servant. I did not know, however, that the passion I had for service would lead me to politics,” she said.
She also shares that her mother and her own community in Delaware inspired her to get involved. Her mother was a public school teacher and a passionate advocate for education. However, a monumental moment in her early life came when she and her mother lost their home and personal belongings in a fire.
“Our community rallied around my mother and me. That changed everything in my life. It opened my eyes to the power of service. I realized that a united community was vital to our success,” Tatiana explains.
This experience reminds her daily of the power of a unified community and inspired her to run for Congress.
“As someone who has experienced what it is like to lose everything and was kept afloat through the generosity of a unified community, I know we have the capacity to unite based on our values and humanity,” Tatiana notes.
One organization that has really helped her grow as a leader is Homefront Rising, which is a non-partisan initiative that trains military spouses to get involved in politics through public service and advocacy in all-day seminars. Their next upcoming event is this month in Washington D.C.
“Homefront Rising is a critical organization, and its mission helps amplify our military community’s voice. It’s about showing military spouses how to harness the power of our voices,” she said.
The initiative had a huge impact on Tatiana because it empowered her to seek the change she wants in her community and think about how far this country has come, but also how much needs to be done.
“It also reminds me that our elected officials are working for us and we set the tone for how they do their jobs,” she added.
Vote Run Lead
In addition to Homefront Rising, Vote Run Lead was another organization that allowed Tatiana to cultivate her leadership skills. It is a part of a national movement to help women get involved in politics.
Tatiana explains that “the trainings and mentorships that they offer are indicative of how women can lift each other up and stand by each other to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. They offer a critical outlet to educate women across the nation on how to engage in our political system.”
Spouses getting involved in politics
Tatiana believes it is extremely important for military spouses to get involved in local and national politics because “political decisions affect our families every single day.”
“Whether it’s dealing with a broken VA system, saying goodbye to a spouse going on their fourth or fifth deployment, finding childcare, trying to finish school while moving every few years, or fighting to get resources for a family member with PTSD, every policy has an impact in our lives,” she said.
And, she explains, the local school board is a good place for military spouses to start.
“I saw an opportunity to get involved and serve my community as a trustee of our local school district, which encompasses both military and civilian schools. Serving on the school board has been a rewarding experience because I can give back to the men and women who fight for our freedom by contributing to the education of their children,” she said.
Tatiana advises spouses looking to get involved in their communities to just go for it.
“Sign up to volunteer at any community event, PTA, homeless shelter, your local animal rescue or a community clean up. There is so much need in our communities and simply giving your time can go a long way in changing your life and the lives of others,” she said.
In addition to her position on the school board, Tatiana also served as co-chair of the veterans and military families committee for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign last year.
“A few years ago, I was at a Homefront Rising event, and I waited in line after a panel to meet Gabriela Domenzain, who was the former National Director of Hispanic Press for Obama. I got her contact information and kept in touch with her throughout the years. I wanted to support Governor O’Malley, and I mentioned it to Gabriela who was then his Deputy Campaign Manager,” she shared.
Some time went by, and then Tatiana got a call inviting her to be a part of Governor O’Malley’s Veterans Task Force.
“I remember my family was PCSing and I was standing in a room full of moving boxes wondering how I was going do it, but of course, I said yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I got to work,” Tatiana said.
This experience taught her that small engagement could lead to a big impact, which in her case brought her to where she is today–a run for Congress.
“You have to go into every opportunity with the mentality that you are going to give it your all. You won’t always win or receive recognition, but you will always come out changed.”
While Tatiana juggles many responsibilities, she sees herself just like every other mother. While she is a military spouse, which means she has to be prepared for her husband to deploy at any time, she explains, “This is again where community–the driving force in my life–comes in. I depend on my community to help me when things get overwhelming; friends and neighbors who themselves have full plates.”Read comments