Like many Tucsonans, Victoria Steele was moved by the events on January 8, 2011. Unlike most, Steele saw it as a call to action and ran for the State House of Representative, winning a seat in District 9.
“I decided to run on the day that I learned that Gabrielle Giffords was shot,” Steele said. “I really knew, I believed in my heart of hearts that I could make a difference and I needed to try.”
As a mental health counselor, Steele knew the damages that mental illness caused that day and it has become one of the causes that she has championed. She helped get half a million dollars in funding for Mental Health First Aid, a program that teaches skills to identify and help people having a mental illness crisis or developing a mental health issue.
“I worked with everybody. It never would have happened if I did not have almost near total support from my colleagues,” Steele said. “It was a true bipartisan effort.”
If re-elected, Steele would like to work on Mental Health First Aid training for veterans, their families and active duty personnel. Specific training that is focused just on the unusual demands of those who have served in the armed forces.
Steele has a background as not only a mental health professional, but also as a broadcast journalist and believes those very different set of skills have helped her in the state house.
“I work with people fairly well,” Steele said. “I am pretty good at how to talk to people and how to listen and build the relationships. That’s what I do, I build relationships and I listen to them.”
Those skills have helped the democrat navigate the tricky world of partisan politics in the house. She has formed some good relationships with representatives on both sides of the aisle, and she says that she has also had to play the game, taking her name off of legislation she worked on to avoid a partisan battle.
“I found that I can really be effective,” Steele said. “I really, truly enjoy what I do. I feel like I was born to do this work.”
She was involved in two major votes that she is quite proud of and calls “historic.” In her first year she was part of the passage of Medicaid expansion and feels that was a very important piece of legislation.
Steele believes the expansion will not only help provide medical coverage, but will create jobs, especially in the health care sector and could eventually mean billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
She was also part of the conversation that is changing Child Protective Services to the Department of Child Safety and changing the way that abused and neglected children are identified and helped in the state.
Steele was also on the House Transportation Committee and soon discovered her “inner transportation geek.”
Steele believes now more than ever the state needs to not only improve transportation infrastructure, but find a new way, a “21st Century way” to pay for it.
She said the way the state funds transportation by a per gallon gasoline tax is outdated because cars are more fuel-efficient.
She feels that there are a number of projects, both large and small, that can improve transportation and, in turn, improve the economy. From fixing potholes and roads, to improving trade and flow across the border, improving the infrastructure is vital to bring better businesses and more high paying jobs to the state and help drive tourism.
She is also passionate about the ban on texting while driving, believing the law should be statewide for all drivers.
Steele is part Seneca and Mingo and is a member of the state’s Native American Caucus and was just named to the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. She has also been a struggling single parent as well as a small business owner and feels she can relate to many of her constituents.
“I have dedicated my life to helping people and I see this as an extension of that,” Steele said. “As a Counselor I helped people one on one ad now I can help the community.”