Minnesota Activist Lisa Belak Reaches New Heights in Preparing Conservative Women to Step Up and Lead
When individuals and organizations join our New Leaders Project, we ask them to commit to doing one of two things: either become a candidate for elected office themselves, or recruit other conservative leaders in their communities to run for office. Few people live out the goals and principles of the New Leaders Project like Minnesota native Lisa Belak.
Lisa first started really paying attention to the political environment after September 11, 2001. When the elections started heating up in 2008, she and her brother attended the state caucus together. She learned a lot, but didn’t become actively involved just yet. That changed when her brother decided to run for state house.
“He was looking for someone to help as a campaign manager until he got someone more qualified and knowledgeable,” Lisa says. “I had a background in marketing and communications, so I thought I could help out in the interim.” Once she started, she didn’t stop and her brother never hired another campaign manager. As the campaign progressed, the two attended a campaign training seminar by American Majority. “By the end of the day we had a good grasp of mechanics…It was a relief to know we were on the right track.”
Shortly after the campaign ended Lisa was approached by Minnesota Excellence in Public Service (MEPS), an organization that identifies and trains conservative women to run for office, manage campaigns, or lead political groups. They recruited her to join their nine-month training program on policy and issues, campaigning, public speaking, and other roles in politics. Since 2009, Lisa has managed three more campaigns.
Lisa joined the Board of Governors, and then recently was elected as President of MEPS. She epitomizes the goals of the New Leaders Project as she focuses on preparing as many women as possible to step up, lead, and make a difference. “We teach them how to focus on policy, how to testify at hearings, how to serve on commissions, how to run for office, how to manage campaigns and much more,” she says.
In recent years, the extensive curriculum for the program has included a one-day campaign training with American Majority. She points out, “American Majority’s training is great because our trainees can choose either the candidate or activist tracks. We offer it late in the nine month series. By that point, they usually know what direction they want to go in and they can get more specific training in that area.”
MEPS’ work recruiting women as conservative leaders is already showing fruit. One graduate of the program is a talk show host in a liberal area of Minnesota. In 2009, several formed a PAC to support conservative candidates. Others have run campaigns or even run for office. During the 2012 election cycle, MEPS graduates had an 80 percent success rate.
And once again, Lisa is going a step further. “I swore I wasn’t going to run for anything myself,” she says. But when a seat opened up on her city council, she decided to put her conservatism and campaign training to work. In a crowded primary Lisa was the number one vote-getter and she went on to win the election.
The work that MEPS is doing to train and support conservatives is wonderful in and of itself. The fact that they are focusing their efforts on equipping women to carry the banners of freedom and limited government makes this story even more important. Because of women like Lisa and organizations like MEPS, the voice of conservative women in politics is growing stronger.