Here at GAIN Power, we are always looking to spotlight different political progressives and changemakers. If you or someone you know would like to be nominated, please fill out this form!
Our spotlight today is on JoAnna Mendoza. JoAnna is a retired US Marine Veteran and government and political affairs professional. She has an impeccable record of service to her country and her community in Arizona.
Can you give a brief background and introduction about yourself?
JM: I was born and raised in Arizona in a small farming community, joined the military at a very young age. I retired a couple of years ago in 2016 after the birth of my son, and really didn’t want to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan anymore, and so I just decided that I would get out and retire. I came back home to Arizona and fell into politics, and didn’t even expect at all that I would be working in this field. I went to work for a member of Congress on the official side as a Congressional staff for doing some case work, and then eventually managing the district as the Deputy District Director.
I ran my own campaign and volunteered for a lot of other campaigns, but then went back to work for that same member of Congress for the 2022 election, where redistricting unfortunately did us in. After that experience, I had my hands in a lot of different things like serving on a couple of boards. One of the organizations that I’m really proud of, and endorsed me when I was running, is Vote Mama, which works to elect more moms to Congress. After that election in 2020 that I didn’t win, I was asked to be their Arizona State Chair.
I also launched my own firm, Poderoza Strategies, as I’ve learned that there are a lot of gatekeepers in the political consultant industry, most of whom are men; very few are women, very few are women of color or members of the LGBTQIA community. I wanted to do something that was just specifically targeted for women or those in the LGBTQIA community because there are just not enough specialized or customized services for them.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
JM: I work full-time for an organization called the Arizona Center for Economic Progress as the executive director. We focus on tax and fiscal policy, and our whole goal is to protect the state’s revenue so that we can fund services for families and children. That’s what I focus on in my day-to-day during the legislative session. In my off time and most of my free time is dedicated to the boards I serve on and my business. I am reaching out to candidates and really trying to provide services to candidates who don’t really have a lot of money, especially in down ballot races.
Why did you choose this line of work? What made you get involved in politics?
JM: I spent a lot of time in the military, a little over 20 years, and was really apolitical. When I got out, I was really looking for continued service and giving back to the community. I never would’ve expected to be in politics. A lot of this started for me when Trump got elected, and I really started paying attention and prompted me to get involved. I can’t imagine a world where our children don’t have a future and that was pretty much the direction our country was going when Trump was elected.
How does your work impact the political climate we live in?
JM: There are still a lot of barriers for women and members of the LGBTQIA community in politics because of the gatekeeping. Not that I want to call myself a trailblazer or anything, but I think that those paths are being forged in so many different ways. We need a diverse perspective, and diverse voices within this industry, if we’re truly going to work to elect people that reflect the American people, and we can’t do that if we have the same type of person that is either running for office or running campaigns. My hope from what I’m doing is that it will encourage other folks to get involved and realize there’s not a clear path to politics.
What is unique about your workplace?
JM: For my business, we specifically focus on working with women and members of the LGBTQIA community and providing them with a safe space. Sometimes the political consultant industry can feel so corporate and so streamlined. And I think what’s different about Poderoza Strategies is that we are customizing services so that people can have their most authentic and best selves shine through. We aren’t in the business of trying to tell people how they should look, what they should say, but rather taking all of their values, qualities, and experiences and deliver a political branding identity that get voters to trust and elect them.
What is one issue you think progressives could better message and why?
JM: It’s not an issue, but we need to have a more coordinated strategy. We need to make sure we are not solely focused on federal races every time, but the down ballot races too. We need to make sure we are pulling folks to the table and making sure those down ballot races are successful.
What advice do you have for young professionals, young women, young LGBTQ+ members looking to get into politics?
JM: Just get involved. Don’t be afraid to do the grunt work; it’s how you get your foot in the door. Prior to even working in a congressional office, I was volunteering. It’s scary at first, but when you do it, it gets easier. You have your biggest growths during those moments of discomfort. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re actually growing, and it feels horrible because you don’t know what to do. You’re scared and you’re afraid you are going to mess up or fail, and all of that is fine. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.
Lastly, for fun, if you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
JM: There’s tons of great jobs out there, but I think for me it’s just anything that allows me to live a purpose-filled life. I know that sounds kind of cliche, but I spent the majority of my adulthood serving, so that’s kind of in my blood now. And whatever I do, whether it’s volunteer work or work just in general, every project and everything that I do, there’s always some component of service to community in it. Maybe the founder of a comic book or entertainment studio, because I am a big comic book fan, but it would allow me to give back.