Monday, April 22, 2024

FAST FIVE: Lisa Schaff: 'Our vote is our power'

Staff Writer | March 2, 2024 1:00 AM
Meet Lisa Schaff, a Coeur d’Alene resident of 12 years who has been a member of the League of Women Voters of Kootenai County since 2016. Lisa would tell you that compassion and empathy are the core emotions that drive her to work for the League. Fairness, truth and civil democracy are at the forefront of her values. As a retiree, she finds purpose in living here in Kootenai County making a difference by volunteering with local civic organizations.

Humble beginnings with parents who struggled with low-paying jobs influenced Lisa's independent nature starting in early childhood. Born in Tacoma, first raised near the Asarco copper smelter in Ruston, Wash., she recalls adventures tromping all about Point Defiance Park from capturing pollywogs in the Japanese garden to beachcombing for shells under the once abundant seaweed bull kelp that covered the sands of Owen Beach. This is where her fascination with gardens, forests and aquatic animals bloomed. Lisa always appreciated kindness of others, from good public education to being fostered by a family still held dearly. These experiences developed her self-sufficiency from age 18 that opened her heart to others who were doing their best to make their way, too.

Lisa gives credit to the post-World War II economic wave for entrepreneurial work experience that included operating a business center at Red Lion Bellevue and SeaTac and then inside the SeaTac Airport central plaza. She also found success selling personal lines insurance products for MetLife with a “customer needs first” focus. Fellow business and volunteer associates might say she does her best work behind the scenes organizing, not one who seeks the limelight.

It just goes to show that anyone can contribute to community by walking the talk. To Lisa, that means helping out a friend in need, participating in a march for equal rights, collecting petition signatures to get an initiative on the ballot or volunteering at various public events.

For health and enjoyment, Lisa spends time near local lakes, rivers, hiking trails or giving her best on a city park pickleball court. She loves the comfort of a cozy bench in a shady forest garden full of hostas and white bleeding hearts. Over the years, she’s dabbled in traveling, sailing, yoga, gardening, seasonal decorating, DIY home crafts, line dancing and throwing the occasional cocktail party.

1)  How long have you been a member of the League of Women Voters of Kootenai County, and why did you join?
About eight years ago, a neighbor invited me to attend a meeting. I joined the League at that first meeting because I feel deeply that I owe a debt of gratitude to those who came before and sacrificed to achieve the right to vote. I realize that access to voting requires protecting and a constant effort to retain and expand voter access to all citizens. LWVKC provides a collective platform for grassroots advocacy where combined voices have greater effect.

2) What does the League of Women Voters do?
Our mission is to retain and advance democracy. While the work is sometimes difficult, we recognize that each member has his or her own perspective and experiences to bring to programs under the guidance of the organization. For example, as a League we support funding for public schools and oppose public funding for private schools.

League priorities include providing voter information via forums, debates and online voter guides. Locally, our voter guide success requires a lot of effort from our members with two key details to acknowledge: 1) The candidate site is only populated before an election, if a team of League volunteers step forward to perform the comprehensive work; and 2) If candidates respond to our nonpartisan questionnaire. Actually, that second item is worth repeating… unfortunately, some candidates ignore the opportunity to participate, thus limiting their own accountability to constituents. Look for us to create a voter guide for the 2024 general election, and please encourage candidates to participate.

During this legislative session, our communication efforts are focused on both election- and education-related legislation by providing video and written testimony, email, letters and phone calls. The League encourages constituents to email the bill committee chair, committee members and their elected representatives to declare the title of the bill and a statement of support or oppose. In addition, it’s important to mention if you have a commonality with the elected official, for example, if you live in their home district. Optionally, and in a friendly manner, mention if you have expertise, what the problematic issues are and suggest best solutions to include in the bill using as few words as possible. See for contact info. Also check out KTVB's The 208 — — for legislative news!

The League's most recent event, “Open Primaries —Non-Partisan Voting — Instant Run Off — Rank — Choice Voting — What Would This Mean for Idaho?” was livestreamed on Facebook. Please listen to the entire presentation:

Local League membership contributes to the mission in several ways: membership, dues, donations of event support and educational fund monies.

3) Why is it important for people to register to vote and engage in the elections in their communities?
Our vote is our power — the ballot box is the place where we decide our elections. Party lines should not be prefaced on the need to give your life and your riches. Those grave sacrifices should be limited only for preservation of democracy against foreign invasion, not for processes that can be handled by an elected official’s logic and fairness while practicing lawmaking. That’s why we vote… to elect representatives to do the hard negotiations in the city halls, state capitals and national congress. Politics are local, right? However, it’s too common that overreach from national to state and state to city are minimizing the voice of local needs. It’s our civic duty to vote for the common good. Being informed is also critical to reality-based decisions. Americans benefit by laws that promise all will be equal, so the more citizens who vote the better.

4) What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
When it comes to voting, what people don’t know about me is that I’m one of those voters that identifies as an independent. I voted first at the age of 18, and like they say when you vote young, you continue to be a regular voter who prioritizes participation over method. I have voted by mail using absentee ballot, I’ve voted in person during early voting, I’ve voted at the polls on Election Day. I’ve volunteered as a poll worker. I’ve caucused as well, upholding my record of voting in most every primary and special election since becoming eligible.

A more personal story is when travel brought me to the edge of the Black Sea while visiting Istanbul during the final days of a Mediterranean cruise. I had no idea when admiring the vastness from a hilltop fort ruin above the Bosporus that my eyes were cast on my family migration path. That family connection I would later uncover when I learned something new about myself. Online, I came across the family tree back to about 1700 to the Rhine region of Germany. The most unusual thing I learned was that my great-grandparents emigrated from Ukraine to America, as they were Black Sea Germans from the Odessa region in Ukraine. Turns out that then, like now, there was genocide in Europe’s bread basket known as Ukraine. Fortunately, my great-grandparents settled in North Dakota so Father was born here in the United States of America. Had it not been for America’s open arms and my great grandparents’ heed to political change, I would not be here today.

5) What words of wisdom do you have for us as voters during this big election year?

Each of us has but one vote to use each election. All votes matter, democracy matters. Hold our collective humanity in your heart with a vote made to pursue peace at home and abroad. Think about what is at stake, expanding liberty versus limiting individual choice. I am not talking about the Second Amendment. I am talking about the freedom to determine one’s own path.
The future is ours for the making. Liberty is in our hands; let it not be taken from us now. Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Choose to support real needs like schools, infrastructure and jobs. Love is blind, but your allegiance should not be. Allow space for others who may not act or look like you; we are all equal under the Constitution without favor to race or religion. And please, show respect and appreciation for our military and police who pledge to support the Constitution and stand ready to serve and protect our civil society. It’s never the time to take arms against thy neighbor. Let us remember that the West has real adversaries like Russia, China, and North Korea who are actually practicing communism.

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Do you know someone in Kootenai County who makes our community awesome? Send Fast Five suggestions to Devin Weeks,, to highlight locals who contribute their time and talents to make North Idaho such a special place.