Last week, Emerge launched Faces of NAM (#SayNAM) featuring Emerge alumnae across the country. Chatham School Board member Destiny Hallenbeck is running for Chatham Town Board to build a community that’s accessible and equitable for every resident. On the campaign trail, Destiny is sharing her vision for a Chatham that uplifts and highlights NAM voices.
Below, read Emerge’s interview with Destiny.
Emerge: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What position are you running for?
Hallenbeck: I am Destiny Hallenbeck, and I am running for Town Council in Chatham, NY. My inability to afford to live in my hometown motivated me to run for office to ensure that Chatham has a diverse and bright future. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I know I am not alone in feeling helpless with the direction our world is going in. I decided to run for Town Council to do something about it. I am also the former state president for the College Democrats of New York, where I led our organization of 35 college chapters through the 2019 and 2020 election cycles.
Emerge: What would you say excites you about running for office? What are a few of the issues you hope to address if you are elected?
Hallenbeck: Running for office and being in public service isn’t always glamorous. But what keeps me going are the concerns of the voiceless. I love the conversations I have with those who have never been engaged with any form of government, from no fault of their own but care deeply about their community. I want to fight to make sure every voice is included and every viewpoint considered. If elected, I will address our housing and broadband crisis to promote a stable future for Chatham.
Emerge: What would you consider the biggest obstacle in running for office, particularly as a young woman and first-time candidate? How have you dealt with those barriers?
Hallenbeck: If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was old enough to run for office, I would have paid off my student loans by now. All jokes aside, As a young woman running for office, my experience and qualifications are frequently questioned. I think that remains true for every woman running, regardless of age. When talking to residents, I use my lived experiences that are unique to younger demographics as reasons for why my voice matters just as much in the community.
Also, to anyone running, find your tribe and keep them close. I am lucky to have an amazing partner and support network that is honest with me when I need it and will give me that much-needed confidence boost after a rough day.
Emerge: Who would you consider to be your biggest role models? How did they influence you?
Hallenbeck: There are a ton of people I look up to but two women, in particular, have shaped my life in immeasurable ways. My mother is the strongest person I know, as she raised three children on her own while providing the best life for each of us. She taught me the value of hard work and empathy for others. Also, although I have never met her, Hillary Clinton spurred my interest in public service. Seeing her run for president in 2008, when I was only eight years old, showed me that anyone, regardless of gender, can be president.
Emerge: There are more than 1,000 Emerge alums currently in elected office. And we plan to reach more than 100,000 New American Majority women – (NAM) – Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of color, LGBTQ+ women, young women, and unmarried women- over the next 15 years. What difference do you think having more New American Majority voices at the table will make? How can we support more NAM women in their run for public office?
Hallenbeck: When New American Majority voices are amplified, we have a better functioning democracy and richer communities. Our voices have been shut out for so long that it is past time that the world listens to us. You can directly support more New American Majority women in two ways. First, ask them to run for office. That may sound trivial but it takes women multiple times to be asked in order to consider running. Be one of those women. And also, let us speak and listen to us. Although more and more women are finding their voice, it can be very uncomfortable at times to speak in a room that does not look like you.
Emerge: What’s coming up next for you? Is there anything our readers should keep in mind?
Hallenbeck: In the immediate future, I have this upcoming election while also going to school full-time. If we are successful on Election Day, which I know we will be, as of January 1, I will be Chatham’s youngest town council member. I am eagerly awaiting this opportunity to serve my community and fight for more affordable housing and increased access to broadband. Outside of politics, I will be graduating from Union College this June with a Bachelor’s in History. I intend to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on state and local governments within the next few years.