Stephanie Rimmer, 49, knew running for Congress would be unpredictable but she never expected someone to ask her to foster a newborn whose mother was on drugs. She said yes.
Today, that newborn, Andre, is 6-months-old and Ms. Rimmer is in the middle of a competitive campaign for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District --- which covers parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley. When she’s not caring for Andre or running the family business with her husband, Ms. Rimmer homeschools three teenage daughters during COVID-19.
•Name: Stephanie Rimmer
•Where do you live: Our permanent residence is in Scottsdale. But right now we are living near 36th Street and the canal at the very edge of Congressional District 6 because we wanted to live near our youngest daughter’s school while I campaigned. The older girls go to Chaparral High School. They are old enough to drive themselves to and from school and activities. Not that this matters now because no one is going to school due to COVID-19.
•When & why did you move here: I moved to Scottsdale in 1995 when I was passing through and fell in love with the beauty of McCormick Ranch. My husband and I have been Scottsdale homeowners since 1997. We love Scottsdale for the access to parks, hiking, restaurants and schools. The property taxes are low, amenities are top of the line and the city is well run.
•What do you do: I am the Vice President of Finance & Operations for Rimmer Lighting LLC, our Scottsdale based family business that represents more than 50 US manufacturers for the exportation of American made lighting fixtures to Mexico. I handle all transactions and compliance for the exportation process and also manage stakeholder relationships representing our company to industry and trade associations.
•Your family: I am from a large Irish and Lebanese family with several hundred cousins across the country. I have four siblings. My husband has eight siblings. We have four daughters, one foster son, and 42 nieces and nephews.
•What is life at home like during the COVID-19 pandemic: We are a very active family, so staying home has challenges. We have four bicycles that are used every day. We are also hiking, walking and jogging almost daily, plus swimming in our pool. Fortunately our neighborhood is quiet and the homes are on large lots so we are able to do this without running into crowds. For hiking, we drive into Phoenix where we can access the tunnel under the 51 to enter the Phoenix Mountain Preserve from the west and hike on trails that are almost always free of others.
We have three daughters in school working from home. This was a relatively easy transition for us although the girls have struggled to remain motivated. We had a birthday a few weeks ago when our youngest daughter turned 14 years old. She did not want a drive-by party like other kids were doing. So we celebrated quietly at home. Our oldest daughter and son-in-law who live in Old Town Scottsdale came by for her birthday and we stayed outside to maintain our distance. It wasn’t ideal but we are grateful we are all healthy and well
•What has been the most challenging part of Arizona’s stay-at-home orders: While I realize that I will never again get this much time with my children on a daily basis, they aren’t thrilled to be hanging out at home. They are suffering from the lost experiences due to being at critical stages in their social development and educational advancement. We have a high school senior graduating from Chaparral and an 8th grader. Their sense of accomplishment is not what it would be if they were enjoying the pre-graduation activities that were originally scheduled.
Also, our high school junior had her service trip to Tanzania canceled as well as her summer seminar program at the Air Force Academy. She also was unable to play in soccer college showcases or attend ID camps where she hoped to demonstrate her soccer skills to the military academies now that she has identified Navy, Air Force and West Point as her top three college choices.
This is also a critical time in the development of our foster son, who cannot get any personal time with his mom right now. We do video calls with her three days a week. But he’s only 6-months-old so it’s not the kind of mommy-son time that he needs. Even so, it is amazing to live in a time when parent-child visits can occur via video phone calls. Arizona’s Department of Child Services is doing an excellent job helping families stay connected.
•Have any silver linings emerged during your time at home with the family: Yes. I believe if you cannot find silver linings in any experience, you are either suffering insurmountable loss or maybe not looking to find them. For me, the silver linings include all the time I get to spend with my children. It hasn’t been like this since before preschool. Everytime I had a child I would pray to God that I would appreciate the opportunity to get to know another unique person. Well, there is so much about my kids that has never come up in conversations. Even though we always spent a lot of time with each other, I am getting to know them better than ever. I can see now that our conversations together over the years were often predetermined by the day’s schedule and our ongoing activities.
•Tell us about your political aspirations; why did you decide to run for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District: Politically, my only aspirations are to make the world a better place by transforming our government into a body that serves the interests of the people. For a long time I thought I could do this by volunteering for, supporting and donating to other candidates. As our country and communities become more polarized by partisan politics, I recognize that the only way to bridge the divide is to elect public servants to office instead of partisan politicians.
I have been a lifelong Democrat, but to me that was not a doctrine to follow blindly. It is just a representation of the kind of policies I “sell” or peddle. To me, that has never meant that the other party shouldn’t get a fair chance to peddle their policies. It’s like business, I sell lighting but someone needs to sell the drywall. You can’t build a house without both. Many of today’s politicians have lost sight of what their party preference means in the grand scheme of things. As a Democrat, I won’t push Republican policies. That’s not my agenda. But I am absolutely open to influence and willing to consider lending my support to policies that benefit the Republican perspective. The party system was intended to provide voters with an easy way to determine if they align with the policies of a particular candidate. It wasn’t meant to divide our legislators nor was it meant to exclude us from allowing policies from both parties to be enacted.
•What one thing would you like to see changed in your district: I would like to see our district receive our appropriate share of federal resources. After 10 years under representation that took a hard position against government spending our district has not received adequate support at the local level in the return of federal tax dollars for local programs.
The biggest chunk of federal funding we receive in AZ06 goes toward programs with Mayo Clinic. These dollars are not negotiated for the benefit of Arizona and not directed specifically to serve our community. The services Mayo Clinic offers are amazing, but they are national and global in reach. This is important, but cannot be traded for federal support of local programming. The federal government should support healthcare initiatives that benefit people across the country and the globe, as well as local programs that can be enhanced with an appropriate return on the federal taxes we pay. AZ06 is Arizona’s highest tax base, yet the least represented by our Congressman when it comes to securing a return on our federal tax dollars.
•Who inspires you? My campaign chair Former Congressman Harry Mitchell inspires me. I lived most of my life without health insurance. My husband and I paid the doctors and hospitals cash for the delivery of our children. And when I needed surgery in 2003, a friend with Arizona Bone & Joint Specialists performed the surgery for free. I started advocating for healthcare reform in 1992, and continued through and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
What makes Harry Mitchell so inspiring is that he was willing to die on the sword to stand up for what’s right. He voted for the ACA and in doing so was part of saving thousands of lives. We knew he would likely lose re-election to our current Congressman David Schweikert as a result of his vote. So, we cried about the potential loss and then hit the streets to talk to voters and see if we could keep that from happening. There is no better representation than someone who is willing to lose to take a stand for people who need it most. We all knew the ACA wasn’t perfect, but maybe we were too optimistic because everyone involved thought the problems would be fixed by now. Harry was always a leader who would work with the other party. He focused on getting things done that were good for people, directing his attention where it was needed most while still making time for all the other issues being presented in Congress. He served 36 years in public office. Tempe has a life-sized statue of him honoring him for his service as Tempe Mayor. The fact that he has honored with a statue while still living is inspiring by itself.
•My advice to today’s youth: Giving advice is never easy, and often not wise. Traditionally, I would say don’t give advice, instead give support. When we support one another, a lot can be accomplished. All the most successful people got both a lot of advice and a lot of support. The support made the difference. If I were to give advice, I would advise our youth to always work hard, to never be their own biggest critic and if they are ever standing alone in pursuit of their dreams to be their own biggest fan. And to never give up.