Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill’s Art of Service


Before earning her title as Representative of New Jersey’s 11th District, before serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and before flying missions as a helicopter pilot in the United States Navy, Mikie Sherrill was a typical high school student. During her time in South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, Sherrill was part of the school’s marching band and cheerleading team, through which she made friends and enjoyed her involvement outside the classroom—  experiences that resonate with many high school students today. However, there was always something that set Sherrill apart from other students— a drive to be part of something beyond her public high school in Virginia. 

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Sherrill and spoke to her about her experiences as a Congresswoman and her path to becoming a servant leader, starting from high school. “In high school, I never gave up on my dream of learning to fly and attending a service academy,” said Sherrill. This, coupled with her experiences in her school’s student government, made it clear that Sherrill was destined to “be a part of something bigger than [her]self and on the path to serving [her] country.” After receiving her acceptance to the prestigious Naval Academy, Sherrill was soon thrust into military life, “doing push-ups and getting yelled at in the humid Annapolis air” the summer after graduation. While other high school graduates enjoyed sunny days at the beach, Sherrill began to distinguish herself from her peers, marking the shift from a typical high school student to a prospective servant leader.   

For Mikie Sherrill, serving comes naturally. Her grandfather was a World War II veteran, and is  her inspiration to this day. It’s a story she is proud to narrate: her grandfather was a bomber pilot whose plane was shot down over occupied France. In the midst of his rescue by the French Resistance, Sherrill’s grandfather recognized his determination to fight another day and the importance of serving a country that had given him so many significant opportunities to live the American Dream. Sherrill’s time as a Sea King pilot reflects the lessons her grandfather taught her, and the values he instilled are those Sherrill now applies as a Congresswoman. Spending time flying missions in Europe and the Middle East taught her how to persevere and remain determined, like her grandfather did. Working alongside her fellow veteran colleagues taught Sherrill “values of service to country, prudent problem-solving, and egoless teamwork.” 

As a Congresswoman who strives to maintain centrist Democratic viewpoints, Sherrill often finds herself in situations similar to those when she was in the Navy— working with colleagues to serve and give voice to the people. Although her beliefs may differ from many of those in the Republican party, and even from those who are more left leaning, Sherrill understands that these differences cannot stand in the way of progress and has learned how to maintain bipartisan support. While working on bipartisan legislation, Sherrill looks for a Republican cosponsor, in an effort to create a “domino chain of Republicans.” The reasoning goes, if one Republican supports the legislation, then others will follow suit. 

Currently, Sherrill is part of a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the events leading up to and surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. She is working alongside Democrat Jackie Speier, as well as Republicans Tom Reed and Andrew Garbino, to “investigate the root causes of domestic extremism, how deeply it has penetrated our institutions, and how we can hold those who commit acts of violence accountable while also healing our country.” Sherrill spoke with fierce passion when addressing former President Donald Trump’s role in leading “an angry mob to violate the Capitol.” She was largely concerned with the movements that encouraged people to believe claims spread by Trump and the Internet that she says had very little, if any, truth to them. Though the events on January 6th undoubtedly threatened the nature of American democracy, it is through the work done by Sherrill and others that will allow us to understand “what and why January 6 happened and how we can stop anything like it from happening again.” Other legislation that Sherrill is currently working on includes the American Rescue Plan, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) reauthorization, and gun safety reform. Each of these movements revolve around building coalitions of support to recognize and serve groups of people who are harmed by the status quo. The American Rescue Plan addresses issues stemming from COVID-19 by providing relief to workers, reopening schools, and stimulating the economy at large, to which Sherril described “a generational type of legislation that will really change the face of the economy of this country and the economy of families in this country for generations to come.” VAWA expired in 2018, but Sherrill and her fellow members of Congress worked to reauthorize this bill to “ ensure we continue to attack the problems associated with violence against women.” Although the attempts to pass gun safety reform were not as successful as intended in the last Congress, Sherrill is determined and optimistic that reform gets over the finish line this time around, stating “it’s important that even if we can’t pass things we continue to work to chip away at the resistance.” Specifically, the Congresswoman advocates for universal background checks – a movement that is starting to build more and more momentum. Sherrill understands that passing legislation is far from simple – after all, this is American politics. However, she remains determined to find ways to garner support to pass legislation and do what she does best – serve the American people.

The journey to becoming the Representative for New Jersey’s 11th District was a product of her desire to continue serving and impacting communities in as many ways as she could. Prior to running for and earning a spot in Congress, Sherrill worked at the United States Attorney’s Office, where she realized the impact that legislation can have in creating positive change. Initially, Sherrill was drawn to the idea of prosecuting for values that she felt were of great importance— serving women, veterans, and protecting freedom of speech and press. As she spent more time in public office, Sherrill gained a broader perspective of the issues that faced 21st century America, and, more importantly, how she could work to resolve those issues. She championed criminal justice reform and saw how plans like the State and Local Tax Deduction were roadblocks to progress. 

Then, the 2016 Presidential election occurred, and in one fell swoop, the dynamic of American politics changed entirely. A growing resentment towards unfit individuals holding positions of power reached its peak with the election of Donald Trump (who Sherrill referred to as “someone who the Republican Party should not have supported”) and started Sherrill’s Congressional campaign. Her service experiences in the Navy and U.S. Attorney’s Office perfectly suited her for a role in Congress – and the people of New Jersey’s 11th District agreed. In 2018, Sherrill replaced Rodney Frelinghuysen as Representative of the district to the tune of a 57% vote, backed by record funding. Since then, Sherrill has worked tirelessly to be the voice of the people of New Jersey’s 11th District. In fact, immediately after our conversation, the Congresswoman voted on the American Rescue Plan and Deliver Relief to New Jerseyans— a testament to her constant efforts to serve. 

For all that can be said about Sherrill’s remarkable political career thus far (and there certainly is a great deal that can be said), it would be unjust to overlook her service in another field— serving as a mother of four children. Sherrill has not only balanced her roles as a mother and Congresswoman, but also seamlessly incorporates elements of each role into her service. Raising four children has allowed Sherrill to witness firsthand the desire for stability, as many people are worried about not having the financial stability to support their children. As such, Sherrill strongly works towards allowing upwards social mobility— people in lower classes have the opportunity to climb to the middle classes and beyond and people in middle classes have the opportunity to stay in the middle class and climb up, as well. The Congresswoman is frequently pictured with her four children, and she enjoys having them by her side as much as they enjoy seeing their mother work hard to serve the people of New Jersey. To Sherrill, her children are reminders of the importance in ensuring that people have opportunities today so they can achieve their dreams tomorrow.