Photos courtesy of Gloria Mazza
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Gloria Mazza avoided politics for the first 59 years of her life.
But then, in 2012, she volunteered 800 hours for the Mitt Romney campaign.
She then worked her way up to executive director of the Polk County Republicans, running the 2016 Iowa Caucus for Polk County.
“I was told that people don’t come along this fast,” Mazza says. “You start at a campaign in your 20s or the college republicans and you work your way up. But I was running out of time. I didn’t have 40 years to get there.”
Mazza retired as executive director in November 2016, after the election.
Today, Mazza is the president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women.
Always an Activist
Mazza grew up in small-town Panora, Iowa, on a farm. She never went to college. Her parents voted, but they were never very active in politics.
In the 1980s, Mazza worked for the Department of Natural Resources and ran a state-run garden club in Guthrie County, Iowa. She always considered herself an activist.
“I said, ‘Let’s get recycling started in Panora,’” Mazza says.
So she did. Her garden group started recycling paper around the town.
“I was doing recycling before recycling was cool,” Mazza says.
This led her to be on a focus group studying recycling for then-Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.
“But I was running out of time. I didn’t have 40 years to get there.”- Gloria Mazza
Under the Department of Natural Resources, she developed outdoor clubs for women and children.
“It was my dream job,” Mazza says. “It became a passion.”
Developing these clubs lead her to become a hunter in her 40s. She learned to hunt animals, including turkey and deer.
“I could [hunt] because no one said I couldn’t,” Mazza says. “The opportunities that I learned along the way without a degree, it’s all about a desire and what’s in your heart and the push to get to that. Doors just fly open for you.”
Making the Jump
Mazza moved to New Jersey for ten years and says she started noticing politics then.
“When I was there, I started paying attention a little bit more to what happens to a state when there is a lot of money to grab and how people respond,” Mazza says.
She came back to Iowa to be closer to her grandkids in 2012. Although she started paying attention to politics in New Jersey, she didn’t get involved in politics until she moved to Iowa.
“I was driven [to get involved] not by a candidate, but by a policy,” Mazza says.
She didn’t agree with the Affordable Care Act, so she jumped into the Romney campaign.
“I haven’t been free of being involved since,” Mazza says. “It becomes an addiction to the opportunities. Especially in Iowa. It’s like no other place.”
She started to volunteer for the Polk County Republicans office, then for a campaign until she worked her way up to Executive Director for the Polk County Republicans.
She conducted the 2016 Caucuses when there were 12 candidates running to be the Republican presidential nominee.
“Because of so many candidates, we literally had over 900 people at one caucus,” Mazza says. “It takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of training, a lot of material. I worked that day from five in the morning to three in the morning.”
She got to do an interview for Fox News about how she runs a caucus site. She saw the interview that night in her office.
“Friends started texted me telling me I was on TV and that I was so important,” Mazza says. “I said, ‘No, I’m not important, I was just working my butt off.’ I didn’t have time to think about how cool it was at the time.”
After she retired, she started to lead the Iowa Federation of Republican Women.
“The opportunities that I learned along the way without a degree, it’s all about a desire and what’s in your heart and the push to get to that. Doors just fly open for you.”- Gloria Mazza
Beyond the group organizing Republican women to support the party, it allows members to get together and lobby for bills at the national, state, and local level. She says right now they are supporting anti-human trafficking and mental health bills.
Mazza says she uses politics to share her voice.
“What we were given, we think we had to fight for our rights to be able to do what we are doing,” Mazza says. “The woman’s voice has to be strong. We have a lot to say. It has taken years for us to get this way.”
Mazza says that she has seen an increase of women’s involvement in politics, across the board.
“Amy Sinclair was the only female in the Senate for while,” Mazza says. “But the Republicans have 25 women on the ticket for the primary. Some of them have to make it through the primary, but that is a lot. That is the most ever. And they are young.”
Mazza says she considers herself to be closer to the middle of the two parties, which she finds important.
“You have to be willing to listen and give, and that’s what not happening,” Mazza says. “There are so many messages coming in so many ways, but we aren’t hearing each other. We don’t listen to each other.”
“The woman’s voice has to be strong. We have a lot to say. It has taken years for us to get this way.”- Gloria Mazza
Mazza says she doesn’t let our political climate stop her from being involved.
“Politics in itself can be kind of disheartening when you do pay attention,” Mazza says. “But it can be exciting, because new laws are made, new things happen for our country because of it. There is always something in policy where your circles will overlap.”