What inspires an online community of over 10k Michigan women to celebrate our governor? One local admin tells us what really connects them to her leadership.
MICHIGAN — In late 2017, Taylor resident Tashawna Gill created a Facebook group to energize Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s female constituency during her campaign for governor.
Now, a year and a half after Gov. Whitmer took office, the Women for Whitmer Facebook group has sailed past the 10,000 member milestone Gill has been working toward for weeks.
“Actually, we should have been at 10,000 years ago, but I was busy trying to win a campaign,” Gill said with a laugh. When she created the group as its administrator, she was working for Gov. Whitmer’s campaign as a regional field director in Southeast Michigan, but she said her role expanded into the political realm quickly.
Gill said the governor’s stay-at-home order gave her time to focus on building the Women for Whitmer Facebook group with a focus on community.
“The women are, if you see the page, they are fully engaged,” said Gill. “They actually read the posts. You could put a paragraph up — you know, most pages, you put a paragraph up, people are not reading it. Here, they read a paragraph, they’re engaged.
“It’s the women in the page that have grown the page. I just asked them to increase that engagement. ‘Can everybody invite somebody? Can everybody invite 10 people?’ And they actually do it, and it grows.”
Women for Whitmer’s members more than showed up to grow their community. As of June 22, 2020, the group sits at 12.3k members.
Those members regularly champion the tough decisions Gov. Whitmer has been making to flatten the curve during the coronavirus pandemic, and they support her demonstrations of solidarity with Black Michiganders fighting for their equality, safety, and dignity.
They’re just a sampling of Gov. Whitmer’s increasingly loyal constituency. Fox 2 Detroit reports that results from a recent statewide survey show her approval rating has risen six points since April and that almost two-thirds of individuals that were asked approved of Whitmer’s actions.
And Click on Detroit reports that even outside of the Facebook group, Michigan women support Gov. Whitmer’s leadership during the pandemic. But which other issues captivate women when it comes to Big Gretch?
Well, her staunch, open support of sexual assault survivors and reproductive rights won the trust of many long before her gubernatorial run.
In 2013, Gov. Whitmer made the hard, emotional decision to share the story of her own sexual assault as a college student in an effort to sway a vote that required people to have abortion riders on their insurance policies to get coverage.
Although her story made no impact on the vote that day, it made an impact on women who saw themselves, their daughters, their friends, and people they care about in the brave senator who spoke her heart to a room full of men.
That Woman From Michigan
Centrally, it seems that the Women for Whitmer Facebook group celebrates the humanity that Gov. Whitmer brings to all aspects of her job and every person she meets in her role.
“Gretchen just makes people feel comfortable,” said Gill, who now works as political director for Gov. Whitmer’s campaign. “She’s held all these titles. She was a state rep, senator, right now she’s governor.
“But when she is there with them [her constituents], guess what she is: She’s a woman first. She’s a mom. She’s a daughter. She’s all these things that they are. And she lets them know that.”
Gill shared a heartwarming story with The ‘Gander about one campaign volunteer who was overjoyed to find the governor remembered her during a chance encounter years after they had last seen each other — while she’s preoccupied with extraordinary crises, a national uprising against racial injustice, and the typical responsibilities of governorship just to top it all off.
“This was just last week,” Gill said. “We were doing the Detroit stops, the business stops. So I’m pulling up early and I see this lady and her family. And I’m like, no, that can’t be her — but it looked like this lady that was at our campaign office every day named Dree …
“So we park and I get out, and it’s Dree and her whole family. It’s all men, she’s the only woman. She’s got twin boys, another boy and a husband. They’re standing on a corner waiting for this tea shop to open. I haven’t seen her in a while, so I go up and we fist-bump because of social distancing and stuff, and she’s like, ‘What are you doing here?!’
“I said, ‘The governor’s about to come here and do some stuff, you should probably stay.’ And she’s like, ‘She’s not gonna remember me.’ I said, ‘She sang Happy Birthday to you the day of the election. You were at her office every day. She’s going to remember you.’
“She did not believe me. So the governor comes, the governor’s in the bookstore, and Dree walks into the store. The governor’s mouth basically dropped like, ‘Oh my God!’ And so Dree just started crying. So Dree walked down the street with her and I got that picture.
“You know, that’s the woman that I love. That’s why I am here … She [Gov. Whitmer] never forgets the little guy. That lit up that girl’s day. She’s a big person with big responsibilities, but once she’s with those constituents, she knows how to make them feel comfortable. And that’s a powerful thing right there.”
After reaching her 10k goal, Gill already has her eye on the 20,000 member mark.
On June 14, Gill posted that group organizers have a “big surprise” in store, but they’re saving the reveal for the 20k milestone. Let’s help Women for Whitmer get there, ‘Ganders. There’s only about 7,500 sign-ups left to go, so join here now (and invite a friend or three).