Joanna VanRaaphorst is a businesswoman who doesn't believe in micromanagement and who knows that just because you don't have money doesn't mean you can't get things done.
She's also a mom who takes pride in the education her son and daughter received through Rochester Community Schools.
And she's a proponent of Rochester — the town where she's lived for 20 years and where her family has built a successful business.
Those are a few of the reasons she is vying for a chance to represent Rochester, Rochester Hills and part of Oakland Township in the state House of Representatives this year.
Who she is
VanRaaphorst, an Oakland Township resident, is running as a Democrat in the 45th District race. The seat is held by Republican Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills.
VanRaaphorst is 52; she is married to Paul VanRaaphorst, a Rochester Hills periodontist. Their children graduated from Rochester Community Schools; Claire is a sophomore at Albion College, and Max is a senior at Oakland University.
The VanRaaphorsts have lived in the Rochester area for 20 years.
Joanna VanRaaphorst has a professional background in sales and marketing. She formerly worked as a director of sales for Holiday Inn and Sheraton hotels, as well as for the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau and for .
She has also been a key partner in her husband's practice.
VanRaaphorst said she is committed to being a positive force in Lansing for promoting Rochester-area businesses. She calls herself a middle-of-the-road, fiscally conservative Democrat.
What motivates her
VanRaaphorst said she was motivated to run for the House seat after she met with McMillin last fall.
She said she became concerned about some of the legislation he was promoting — specifically, his Lightbulb Freedom Bill and an amendment to the state's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act that would void some local civil rights ordinances.
She decided to attend one of McMillin's in-district office hours events and speak to him about her concerns.
"I wasn't happy with his answers, so I decided to run against him," she said.
VanRaaphorst said the response from the community has been supportive.
"I know so many intelligent people here who in the past voted all Democrat or all Republican. But if they hear me out, hear who I am — maybe I can flip a switch in them.
"I feel that the more McMillin gets in the news, the more people will start to say he is not good enough," she said.
"He is selling our citizens short."
VanRaaphorst said she is first and foremost focused on Rochester.
"Tom McMillin is hardworking. I don't argue with that," she said. "But we are paying him a lot of money from Rochester, and I think he needs to focus a lot more on Rochester."
She is also focused on education issues. Her sister is a teacher, and she talks to her almost daily about struggles and triumphs in the classroom.
"In my opinion, McMillin is working actively against our public schools," VanRaaphorst said.
McMillin was named chair of the House Education Committee in the fall. Shortly after that, the Legislature passed a measure that would remove the cap on charter schools in the state.
VanRaaphorst said she is not necessarily against charter schools, but she is mostly concerned about funding for public schools.
"You can't expect great schools and keep taking their funding," she said.
Not a typical candidate
VanRaaphorst doesn't have political experience. "I'm not a cookie-cutter candidate," she said.
But she considers that an asset.
"I think I can go in and look at government like any citizen," she said.
"I've learned the basic ways of listening to your community, and I can go to Lansing and make these things happen for the district," she said.
"You need all walks of life (in the Legislature). You can't just have lawyers and CPAs (certified public accountants) and insurance executives. You need a variety of perspectives."
VanRaaphorst is a founding member of the Rochester Women's Fund. She is also involved with Rochester Area Youth Assistance and has been involved with the Rochester Area Neighborhood House and the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library.
She calls herself frugal and said her campaign will be "a grassroots campaign for a grassroots person."
"Everybody counts in this town," she said. "The person who checks out my groceries at is just as important as a City Council member."
For more about VanRaaphorst, visit JoannaForRochester.com.