THE field of politics brings to mind both the idea of meaningful changes and fulfilment, as well as a mountain of demands and personal sacrifices. Zenobia Haynes takes on this challenge each day with her hard-working, yet jovial demeanour as she recognises her role as a part of something bigger because, the truth is, only through policy comes change.
Born in Connecticut to Jamaican parents, Haynes did not know where the future would take her. In her early life she was inspired by President Barack Obama because of his warm and charismatic disposition, as well as his ability to bring people together, keep them calm, and take control in a crisis. She also shared that from an early age she began learning about conquering challenges from her mom, Sheila Rose Mattis, who has shown persistence and perseverance throughout all of life’s challenges.
When she was in high school her mother decided to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to help with her children and grandchildren. And so, the political dream began without her even realising it. Haynes’ brother also studied political science at Emory, and this piqued her interest. At first she was thinking about it as a stepping stone to attend law school; however, the journey took a different route.
If you know anything about American government and politics, you know Georgia has been a Republican state (red state) for almost three decades. In 2020, during the presidential election, this Georgia State graduate thought she was simply a part of a Democratic campaign for candidate Jon Ossoff. Many doubted the possibility that a Democrat could win in Georgia. Yet, through all adversity, many sleepless nights and sacrifices, by the end of what seemed to be a three-day count of votes she had become a part of history, becoming the first state employee hired by the Georgian senator who had won the election. For the first time in almost 30 years Georgia turned blue, and Haynes was an integral part of this process. Despite these accomplishments, whenever they are mentioned, she remains quiet and humble and always exudes gratefulness.
In one of the first conversations sharing the news, she exclaimed, “Can you believe it?! Miss Mattis granddaughter! Wait till she hears about this!” She attributes her success to her mother, and grandmother Jennett Mattis who helped mould her into the person she is today. Although born in Connecticut she spent much of her time at home in Jamaica in Mizpah, Manchester (her grandmother’s house) with a house full of people including cousins, her three brothers, and other relatives. This matriarchal home taught her to be supportive and kind — and she attributes her spirit of community to this upbringing. She has learnt to be always mindful of other people’s feelings, which she believes should be a trait of every politician.
“Christian beliefs were instilled in us as early as we could understand. We knew the importance of sharing and caring for members of our immediate family as well as persons with whom we had no relation. Those principles remain with me and have shaped me into the person I am today,” she shared.
The road has not always been easy. The go-getter has had her fair share of challenges. She admits that as a young, first-generation American, she lacks a bit of the foundation of the system in comparison to her colleagues. Initially, as a young graduate, she struggled to find a stable job, especially one she was passionate about and in her field of study. However, she stayed steadfast and grateful for every step of her journey, never complaining, and eventually the opportunity landed in her lap as she is now living her dream. She shared: “I began with a few internships during my time at Georgia State University in which I was able to gain experience at the municipal and state level. It was a great opportunity. I had the chance to research and track legislation and most importantly, interact with members of the Georgia General Assembly which further cemented my love for politics.”
Haynes has always been the person who consistently helps others in any way she can so it is fitting that she has found a career in politics — an avenue via which to make policy — as what better way is there to accomplish this? Haynes is driven by her personal conviction, “The Government must work for the people” ,and this has fuelled her as she worked as deputy political director on Senator Jon Ossoff’s campaign and now, as his senior outreach coordinator.
At 26 Haynes has been tapped to serve as political director for the re-election of Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock who is the first African American elected to the United States Senate from Georgia.
As political director she is one of the key decision-makers who will drive the policies of the campaign. She will have to continuously engage with elected officials as well as organisations, stakeholders, and constituents to ensure that the campaign message is received and understood. Haynes is elated to take on this role as it is rewarding for her to interact with people from all different backgrounds, learn about their communities, and understand their challenges so she can figure out a way to help.
Haynes is also passionate about perpetual good governance and so she has committed to mentoring students who are pursuing a future in politics.
With June being Caribbean-American Heritage month, it is quite apt to have this journey to share.
“With my roots from a small place called Mizpah, God has truly shown His hand in my life and I’m forever grateful for my support system — my amazing family and friends.”