For some reason, we expect that a person holding a prestigious influential position in Michigan must be from somewhere else: Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing.
However, Brenda Ortega, editor of the Michigan Education Association’s influential “Voice” magazine not only lives in Jackson County, but is a product of Jackson High School. Even those outside of education are likely familiar with Michigan’s largest teacher’s union, the MEA. “Voice” is literally the voice of, and for, public school teachers throughout our state.
Brenda certainly feels the weight of responsibility for accurately and enthusiastically advocating for 125,000 Michigan public school teachers. Still, she says, she loves the job.
Although Brenda earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism, she also completed a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan. Her previous work experience was as a writer for newspapers such as the Valley Daily News in suburban Seattle, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, after which she was a teacher in Southfield, Farmington, Vandercook Lake and Thousand Oaks, California, and at Jackson College.
Brenda believes her responsibility as the “Voice” editor is to advocate for public school educators. In this regard, she must respect the breadth of political perspectives of all educators represented by the MEA.
However, a perusal of any issue of the “Voice” corroborates a close alignment with most Democratic aspirations, and it tends to endorse Democratic candidates. This, of course, is not entirely up to her. Representatives from local MEA units prioritize the union’s objectives, and they conduct interviews with political candidates to determine which candidates are endorsed. Brenda then must reflect these decisions in her articles.
This writer has found that in their personal politics both Brenda and her husband, John, are dependable supporters of national, state and local Democratic candidates. Brenda participated with her daughter in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. She called it “a life changing experience.”
However, when mother and daughter returned to Jackson, fired up by what they had seen and heard in Washington, they found the Jackson County Democrats, for the most part, had missed the moment to engage with voters. They affiliated themselves instead with a chapter of Indivisible.
Now, after Democratic voters coalesced for the 2018 midterm elections, and the promising reorganization of the Jackson County Democratic Committee, both Brenda and John are determined to help bring victory to Democratic candidates and Democratic ideals in 2020.
— Bryon Ennis