There are people who work in community service, volunteer for great causes, advocate for positive change, run for public office, win, and continue their good work toward making our world a better place. But not many of them do so as the only person of color in the room. Not many of them come away from all that fighting and advocating as absolute beacons of uplift. But Germaine Kornegay is. She is one of the warmest, most positive, most outspoken, most kind, most fierce, most un-angry fighter you’ll ever meet. Her accomplishment isn’t one of appeasing or fear of being disliked—she is just simply an infectiously inspiring person, and her unique sparkle lingers long after she leaves a room.
Which is why she should be president.
But we’ll get to that.
Kornegay ran for Sedro-Woolley’s city council for the first time in 2008. Inspired by her degree in human services at WWU and an event around the screening of the ground-breaking documentary Represent!, she nodded to a friend who asked if she would run for office. Then she hesitated. “My biggest hesitation being that I was already feeling overwhelmed with life, but who isn’t? I finally thought I should practice what I preach and it was a perfect way to serve my community.” And serve she does. “Sometimes the fact that it’s [Sedro-Woolley] such a close community, disagreements are more personal and it’s more challenging to ‘take sides’. Because everyone pretty much knows each other, it can help but when it hurts, it can really, really hurt.” But Kornegay brings people together. “It takes a tough person on the inside and a gentle person on the outside. That’s what a true leader is like in my opinion. If you are serving the people, don’t be an ass. Be as diplomatic as possible.”
On KUOW earlier this year, she recounted the experience of doorbelling—neighbors, friends, strangers—everyone invited her in for tea and chatted with her. Except one man. He said he wouldn’t vote for her because she was black. Kornegay’s reaction? “I’m really going to learn something from this man. I am going to sit here and listen. I am going to learn from it, and them I’m going to use it to win this election.” What the man revealed in the conversation was his hatred of his own bigotry, and through mutual friends he has expressed regrets about that conversation. Luckily, Kornegay has a huge wellspring of support in Sedro-Woolley and in Skagit County—and pretty much everywhere she goes. She is a proud member of the Skagit Democrats. Earlier this year, she made the trip to the National Democratic Convention to nominate Hillary Clinton. Kornegay is the go-to campaigner for everyone from Representative Rick Larsen to School Superintendent candidate Erin Jones, and everyone in-between.
Kornegay grew up in Philadelphia. Her mother cooked and delivered meals to elderly neighbors. In college, her mentor, Dr. Susan Kinkaid, highlighted the important work of social justice, and Kornegay was inspired. “I doubled my community service.” She finds herself to this day passionate about women and children, the environment, and social justice. Not only does she love to work on campaigns, she is also into roller derby, owns her own business called Animal House Pet Grooming, and raised her daughter as a single mom, “As I was raised.” Her other accomplishments include a resolution she got passed that makes spousal rape a felony in Washington State. “I received the C.E.E.D. (Center of Education, Equity, and Diversity) Award for my work in getting a resolution passed. It ended up being signed into law by Governor Inslee in 2014.”
Kornegay powers through her days running her business and serving her community. Her mom is her biggest inspiration, a “hippie disco queen” who never let Kornegay feel the poverty that haunted them, who took care of neighbors, who served her own community. As for the many pleas for her to run for President of the U.S., Kornegay responds, “Hell no.” But one day, I’m pretty sure, you’ll be filling the arrow on your ballot next to her name.