Kristin Collum was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana and joined the U.S Army after graduating high school. During her time in the U.S. Army, she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information systems, worked at the Pentagon under General Colin Powell, served as a Signal Officer Platoon Leader in an Infantry Division and after 12 years of military service was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant. Before deciding to run for lieutenant governor, she was a software engineering manager for Xylem. Collum and her husband have four children and live in Boise, Idaho.
Q: So far you have visited 42 out of 44 counties here in Idaho. Why is going to every county important and what have you learned from the people of Idaho in doing this?
Every county is unique. It’s been such a blessing to visit each one and find its uniqueness and find their landmarks that they’re proud of and it’s been just amazing. I love learning and I’ve been kind of geeking out on the adventure of seeing so much of Idaho. Where they have all been unique and have had their differences, they all care about their public lands but each public lands issue is different and shows the character of that county. All of us, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we all love our children, we love our freedoms, we love the constitution and we want things to get better. I think we’re all suffering and feeling the division in our communities, the last couple of years have been rough as a nation, even as a state, community and even in some families. There is pain there and I feel that pain and I want to just help heal that, I’m a uniter and I want everyone’s voices to be heard. I want to work across all parties.
Q: Both you and the Democratic nominee for governor, as well as your Republican opponent for lieutenant governor are women. What does that say about progress for women in America and what will you do to further that if you are elected?
It is a very exciting time in history. What inspired me over the last few years, you know I’ve always worked in male dominated fields, whether it was my 12 years in the military or my years in the tech sector, they were both male dominated words and I know no different. I’ve always found the way to success was hard work and emphasizing what we have in common, and I have been chosen by my male peers to lead and I bring my experience into this job and it’s no different to what I have done over the past 30 years. I have four daughters and I want them to have equal opportunities, equal pay, equal ability to work in any field that they want and I think in order to make that happen I think women need to be about 50% of every vote, of every decision, especially when they affect us. So that means every level of government, local, state and federal we need to be running for office and we need to be serving. I am very excited that three of the four major party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are women and I’m very excited that we will have our first woman lieutenant governor and we want to make sure that that first woman lieutenant governor is the one that strongly and proudly represents women and will protect our rights to pay, protection and healthcare benefits and would not support or show admiration for anyone who puts women down or disrespects us.
Q: As the only candidate running for either governor or lieutenant governor that is a veteran, how will you help your fellow veterans here in Idaho if you are elected?
I’d like to take that on as the special project. You know, each lieutenant governor has a few areas that they focus on and actually Brad Little as Lt. Governor has two projects and I think they’re the same for me, veterans and cyber security. I’d like to take those areas and expand them and as a veteran I think I can actually make some goodness happen. Homeless rates are high, we have a lot of veterans coming back with missing limbs, traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, they struggle with a lot of things, but what i’ve found is that there are a lot of programs already established either by the government or volunteer groups and part of the problem is connecting the veterans with the right programs. As well as letting them know that it is okay to ask for help and letting them know that these groups are there and they have brothers and sisters who can understand them. I know what they feel like when they come back and we can reconnect them with their community. l think it’s a public service campaign to connect the problems and to help people identify veterans who are in the problem areas to the resources because there are a lot of us and I would be very vocal about that.
Q: In a largely conservative state as a Democrat, what would you say to voters who see certain nationally covered and polarizing issues, such as abortion rights, marriage equality or gun control laws, as deal breakers but who are maybe concerned about education and healthcare and like your stance on those issues?
I am an experienced and trained leader and have had decades of experiences both in the military and in the business sector. I’ve always been a hard worker; I come with working class roots and I’m self made. I come with values of Idahoans and I would say that I’m in the middle and I’m looking at bringing everyone together, unlike my opponent, and no matter where we are on these divisive things, I would say to open your minds on these things that seem black and white. A wise man once told me there is about one percent black, one percent white and the rest is all gray. With these difficult topics like gun control or abortion, I say let’s talk about this and maybe we’ll find we’re not as much at odds as we think. I’m for gun ownership, I come from a family that owns guns, I’m a marksmen and I’m quite a good one too. I’m a democrat and I’m not out to take anyone’s guns away so that division is artificial. On abortion, nobody wants an abortion to happen on any side of the issue, so what are we doing to minimize that from ever happening and how are we being positive? I want the conversations to turn more positive, not about how we’re different but on how we’re alike and I think everyone needs to come from that place and that we can actually build very strong communities.
The thing that helped me as a person the most was when I was 17, joining the military and celebrating my 18th birthday in basic training and then being sent to Germany and thinking about how I’m all alone on Christmas in this foreign country and I spent a couple years there before coming back stateside. I know at BYU-Idaho a lot of students have been through that or will go through that when they go on missions, it’s the same thing. When you serve a mission, it resonates very strongly with me and my military service. You go away and you serve others and not yourself and it’s that service that opens your heart and opens your mind to differences of other people, to understand that not everyone grew up like you did but they’re still loved in the eyes of the Lord. We all need to help each other, we’re not going to get anywhere if we just stay divisive. And that’s the military service in me and that’s the missionary service in a lot of BYU-Idaho students that we want to serve and bring the communities together, we want to improve, we want to help others and do it through positivity and with love and not with hate. We need to unite and we need to move forward and I believe that I bring that. I’m a military veteran, I’m proud to serve our country, I love my constitution, I love our country and our God and I want this world to be better.