Representative Susan Fisher was first appointed to the NC House in 2004. She has since handily won all of her elections to House District 114 in Buncombe County. She is a past recipient of the Lillian’s List Courage Award.
How have you grown or changed as a leader since you’ve been in office?
It has been a long time, I’m running for my ninth term. I’ll say that when I first came into the seat I was humbled by the whole idea that I was appointed to a seat. I was eyes wide open to soak in information. I had a period of time in a short session to do on the job training before I ran for the first time. Campaigning is eye opening. When that came along I relied on my on the job training but still tried to stay humble and keep that attitude of questioning and listening that I had felt was important in the first days in the General Assembly. Then you get into the middle time span of my tenure and I began to hone in on how people are treated, women in the GA, and to some extent there is a good old boys network down there. It’s hard to break into. I was struck by how a woman could have an idea for something good, but generally a man took credit for it. I observed a lot of that. There was an instance or two where it was necessary to rely on a male member with more experience to help and through that, with finding my own small successes along the way, made me understand it doesn’t matter who gets credit, as long as the right things are happening. I like that attitude in light of the fact that we’ve been in the minority for almost a decade. It doesn’t serve anyone well to need to take credit for things. I need to work as hard as I can in my corner of the universe to push ideas forward and help my colleagues and not worry about credit. That’s how I’ve grown.
Say we expand Medicaid, ratify the ERA, and lift the existing abortion restrictions, what’s the next big move to help women and families in North Carolina?
COVID has magnified the problem of disparate income and the more we can do to level the playing field for our workers the better. I’ve introduced a bill every session, with other’s joining me, to raise the minimum wage and it’s been over a decade since we’ve seen an increase. And we’ve seen so many of the frontline workers be the ones who can least afford to get sick. It all ties together, all of the issues tie together. People need to be paid their worth to survive. When the minimum wage was first introduced it was meant to be livable and enough to put money aside for the future. There’s no way that a family or an individual can do anything like that on $7.25 an hour. It’s a huge issue right now when budgets are tight. Our state budget will be taking a huge hit as a result of the pandemic and the family budgets will also certainly be struggling. We have to pay attention to those who need help the most. The very idea that the Republicans would do away with earned income tax credit was unfathomable. It was a Reagan era Republican originated idea. We’ve seen a systematic shutting down of the things that make public life meaningful. Education has been starved and it’s an idea that works and has been shown to work. Trying to starve it is beyond my understanding. We need a breath of fresh air. Our priorities have to really focus on the lower wage earners and families and workers in our state who have suffered through this pandemic with us all.
How do you feel that the culture of the NCGA has changed as more progressive women are added each cycle?
I think that the good change is that we have fresh new ideas and energy going in. It has been a frustrating time over the last 8-10 years and because we had fresh, energetic women with progressive ideas it helps bolster those of us who have been there for longer. It makes me feel like we don’t have to shoulder the whole burden of the minority. The only thing that has been troubling to me, is how the new members must feel so frustrated about how locked down the House is in terms of getting ideas across. It’s a constant cycle of watching things go to Rules repeatedly. It’s so frustrating. I try to give as much positive reinforcement to those new women who are sincerely trying to do a good job. I don’t want them to throw in the towel. Even if I have felt like that before, I know I can’t because we’re there to serve and represent the constituents. They don’t all think like the Republicans do and we need to be sure to stand up for our way of thinking. It’s been really positive to see new progressive women come into the General Assembly with great energy. It’s a life preserver for me and a breath of fresh air.
What is something that makes you feel hopeful about North Carolina?
I look at the support the candidates get right now and that gives me hope. Even after this long drought in terms of progressive policy being able to be passed, we’re seeing glimmers of attention being paid. Like the Supreme Court giving more civil rights for LGBTQ+ folks. Of course we take a step forward and a few back, but the idea that we would hear this coming out of the Supreme Court is a reason to hope. Ruth Bader Ginsberg getting out of the hospital is hopeful. We have to send positivity to her every day. I try to find something every day that makes me feel like we’re going to make a difference. It feels like we’re on the cusp of turning the state slowly back into the path it’s known for, a path toward progress. Dr. Mandy Cohen and the Governor talk about how we are dealing with this pandemic and even with the suffering, the fact that we have this expertise right here in North Carolina, gives me hope. People want to be here in North Carolina for the same reason I do. It’s a matter of pulling people together and giving them the opportunity to do good. It’s a strange time too, and we have to find hope where we can.
What are you doing right now to find joy?
I’m doing a lot more reading for pleasure. It’s been nice. I adopted a cat from the Humane Society. She’s such a great companion during this. We couldn’t adopt in the usual way and go in and pick one out. I looked online for a Siamese cat because I always had those. It’s been years since I’ve had a cat and I couldn’t find a Siamese cat, but I wanted a short haired female. I found a kitten who was so curious looking and solid black. She’s a Bombay mix, bred to look like a panther. She’s about a year old and she’s the sweetest and most loving companion right now. Her name is Tula! Which is a Sanskrit word that means “balance.” Balance is what I crave more than anything. Tula is a really woke kitty too, she has a cat cave of felted wool and her’s is a rainbow cat cave.