Colette Nies had no intentions of becoming a social worker, until meeting with her advisor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
“We were talking about my work in anti-torture policy and food policy and he asked ‘why aren’t you getting a masters in social work,’” she said. “I didn’t know any social workers and I was unfamiliar with the field. But then I really started looking into it.”
After receiving her divinity degree, Nies went on to complete her master of social work at the Steve Hicks School in 2010. She credits this experience for preparing her to run for a seat on the Comal County Commissioners Court representing precinct 3 in the 2020 election.
“It really was a practical application of my theology,” Nies said. “It was an incredible time in my life for learning and diving into developing my gifts for social justice and really seeing the interconnectedness of how systemic racism and oppression work and how to fight against it.”
Nies ran as a Democratic candidate with top priorities to improve water and air quality, protect springs and aquifers, promote green infrastructure and land conservation, establish more green spaces and protection of native species, and address food and housing access.
She ran her campaign all while raising her foster daughter and pursuing her doctorate in land food and ethics, and faith formation. To make up for limitations due to the pandemic, she hired an agency to help execute a completely digital campaign, using social media and filming dozens of outreach videos to educate voters on issues.
“I wasn’t going out knocking on doors,” she said. “I wanted to respect people’s boundaries because of the pandemic.”
Despite not being able to campaign how she wanted to, Nies was able to secure 37.36% of votes. Although high for a Democratic candidate in her county, it was not enough to defeat incumbent commissioner Kevin Webb, who received 62.64% of the vote.
“I think the good thing is I moved the needle some and I brought conversations to the forefront that people here needed to start having with candidates,” she said. “My opponent had run unopposed before and was going to be running unopposed again.”
With the election behind her, Nies continues to impact her community. She is the president-elect of the Democratic Women of Comal County and is being considered for a position on the New Braunfels Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. She is raising funds and organizing the Heritage Project, an organic community garden at New Braunfels Presbyterian Church that will break ground this spring. She is mostly looking forward to adopting her foster daughter and completing her dissertation.
Nies entered a tough race that brought many challenges; however she’s proud that one thing went unchallenged: her policy priorities.
“One of the strengths my masters of social work brought was this ability to see all the macro issues and break it down,” she said. “I just applied my knowledge from land and food and then it overlapped. That’s policy.”