When Northampton County councilperson Tara M. Zrinski was in the eighth grade, a teacher told her that a woman would never be elected president of the United States.
Zrinski, politically passionate even then, refused to believe that. While she may not be running for president – yet — she is running as a Democrat for a seat in the state House of Representatives for the 138th District.
Fighting for tax and health care reform, as well as family-sustaining wages in the state, she has her eyes on the issues that businesspeople and residents in the Lehigh Valley alike are talking about.
Lehigh Valley born and bred, she graduated from Freedom High School and earned graduate degrees from the Moravian Theological Seminary.
“I was always interested in politics,” she said. “My parents talked about it around the dinner table. My Dad was involved in unions, so politics were a part of that. I learned that you wanted to be a part of the conversation. And I always had something to say. I had a lot of opinions.”
Zrinski wanted to fight for others, she said. She wanted to be an advocate. And she is. This single mother continues to fight, and fight hard.
LVB: What has been the most challenging political battle for you?
As a Northampton County councilperson, I’ve advocated for land owners who have the PennEast pipeline going through their property. I’ve tried to do what I can about the sludge and bio solids in the Slate Belt…and I passed a resolution to ban single use plastic straws and plastic bags. However, the state banned the ban on plastic. There’s the challenge. You are doing one thing and the state is doing another. That’s one of the reasons I want to run for state rep now. I find that so much of what happens, happens at the state level. And I want to effect change.
LVB: There are conservative business owners locally who advocate for universal health care, for Medicare for all, what do you think about that?
I don’t understand why small business owners aren’t demanding universal health care. The burden of health care is placed disproportionately on business owners and it’s so expensive. Why wouldn’t you want a healthy society with access to affordable health care, education and a livable wage?
You can’t make it on minimum wage in a 40 hour a week job, not in a 12 dollar an hour job, and not in a 20 dollar an hour job. When you have a society that is worried about their basic needs, it’s hard to get them to be concerned with environmental concerns. Those concerns come from a place of privilege. We could all be at a better standard of living if we demanded it.
The middle class is what will make the economy strong and if we continue to erode it that will be the end of capitalism.
LVB: Why do you think women are still paid less?
Take yourself out of the workforce for 10 years to raise children and then try and go back. You are starting at the bottom again. Your male counterparts have been there for 10 years and their growth is exponential.
Our best years are given over to childbearing but that is not necessarily appreciated in this country. Add student loans and your child’s student loans on top of that and it’s almost impossible to get ahead. The wage issue is something we need to really work on. People working 40 hours a week shouldn’t struggle to meet basic needs.
LVB: What book are you reading right now?
On Fire by Naomi Klein. It is about the new green deal and how we are sticking our heads in the sand when it comes to climate change.
LVB: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three non-necessity items would you want with you?
Drawing tablet, paint, and ink pens, so I could draw or write.
LVB: What person in your life influenced you the most?
I had so many people that influenced me. My father for sure. It seemed that he always had to redefine himself. He worked at Western Union and, when they laid off everyone, he started his own business, Frank’s Electronic Repair. I would sit in his shop and watch him work. He was a hard worker, taking a second job fixing ATM’s, and he fixed newspaper printing presses. He never stopped working and he still made time to take a walk and talk to me almost every day. He is 74 and drives a bus for the BASD.
I was one of those kids who became like the adopted child of neighbors, teachers and professors. Lou Ramos, my soccer coach, lived down the street and he recruited me. He taught me that it was ok to be aggressive and to get what I want. I found that throughout my life my teachers were the ones who influenced me the most.
I stayed for a second degree in grad school at Moravian. That helped me to get out of a bad marriage and stay at the school. My professors were so supportive. I had a professor who bought me a box of food every month. I had a professor who took me shopping. The woman who lived across the hall would watch my kids if I needed it. That supportive community allowed me to move forward. It was a true opportunity to change my life and the help I got at Moravian to do so was so valuable to me.
LVB: Is there something that you would bring to the Lehigh Valley from another part of the world if you could?
Yes, I would bring high-speed rail here. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be rail service here. We have people commuting up and down to New York and DC. And there is no reason rail shouldn’t take you from Allentown to Easton. Instead, we are stuck on 22 with all these trucks.
LVB: Are you a print person or a digital person?
I am a print person. I love the feel of a book. It has so much less strain on my eyes. I don’t connect with a computer. But I connect to the feel of a book.
LVB: What thoughts would you like to leave our readers with?
Women have to be more supportive of one another, both in politics and in business. I’m often the only woman on the boards that I serve on. It doesn’t have to be that way. When there is a glass ceiling, and a woman makes it through that, she doesn’t always bring up the other women behind her. Pave the road ahead for other women. You can’t be the only one seated at the table. Bring others with you.