An accomplished professional, Theresa Morris takes pride in representing the citizens of Ohio’s 9th district as well as the Latino community. As the longest serving Latina/Latino US congressional aide, the self-described public servant was honored to receive the 2018 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award for her life’s work.
Feeling very blessed “to have had a strong foundation with a village that supported me as I was growing up,” she was particularly moved when she received the award. “I am the first on both sides of my family to graduate with a college degree so to have both my parents witness the honor was priceless,” she says.
Returning to Toledo in the 1990s after having lived for some time in Mexico City, she reached out to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur’s office knowing of the Congresswoman’s concerns and strong opinions about the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ms. Morris met with a congressional assistant and shared her personal experiences while in Mexico. At the close of the meeting, she was asked to leave her resume and six months later was interviewed for a position in Congresswoman Kaptur’s office.
While the original position was a two month temporary appointment, it led to a full time assignment and her current position. “What I hope people take from my journey is that even though you may be presented with one option, many times, it can turn into something better. Your path may not always be linear but may actually have some steps along the way.”
Throughout her career, Ms. Morris has witnessed a shift. “When I first entered my position, I would attend meetings and often be the only person of color in the room. I felt a tremendous responsibility to have a strong voice for many who were not afforded the ability to speak. Now, I find slowly, more diversity on committees and meetings. While I am thankful for the progress, much more growth is still needed,” she adds.
For those considering a life in politics or government relations, Ms. Morris recommends they be culturally competent, globally aware and be adept at multi-tasking. At any moment, an event or situation in another country or within the US can affect the district. Regardless of the time or day, she says her work rarely stops. “When events occur over the weekend or on holidays, we answer the call.”
Ascribing to the servant leader model developed by Robert K. Greenleaf, Ms. Morris dedicates herself to the Latino community and the northwest Ohio region. She sits on the boards of the YWCA of Greater Toledo, City of Toledo Youth Commission, Team Recovery, WGTE Public Media and the Arts Council Lake Erie West. She also has volunteered for the American Red Cross, Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio, Toledo Museum of Art, American Association of University Women and various political campaigns. Two of her most recent accomplishments were earning a certificate in Minority Executive Leadership and graduating from the Toledo Citizens Police Academy.
Motivated by great individuals, Ms. Morris is very appreciative for the opportunity to learn from strong women. She chose to earn her master’s degree in organizational leadership from Lourdes because of the Sisters of St. Francis and their commitment to the community. Congresswoman Kaptur is one of her strongest role models. “Marcy wanted to be an Air Force pilot or attend Notre Dame University. Neither would allow her acceptance as a woman. I’m very fortunate to have learned from someone so accomplished as well as being the longest serving woman in the history of the US House.”