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Heart to Heart

Servant of the People

How Kaity Ellis’ bid for office is all part of her passion to serve others

When Kaity Ellis was six years old, she knew that one day, she’d serve in public office. 

“I don’t remember if it was the Senate or the House of Representatives, but I remember that the TV was on CSPAN,” Ellis recalls. “I looked at my grandmother and said, ‘One day, I’m going to do that.’”

Now, a few decades later, Ellis is set to make that dream a reality. The New Mexican at heart is running for New Mexico State Senate District 20, fueled by a passion to help people that have shaped her entire life. A social worker by trade, Ellis works as a full-time advocate. 

“As a social worker, I work to improve the lives of individuals every day,” Ellis said. “I work to make sure that we as a profession are looking at the person holistically and focusing on what is best for each individual.” 

While Ellis knew her passion for serving others would shape her life, it took a little time to determine exactly how, then discovered a passion for social work. A wheelchair user, Ellis has cerebral palsy and is legally blind. An observant professor, who also happened to be the chair of the social work department at Western New Mexico University, noticed Ellis’ passion for service and quickly realized how it could benefit others. Ellis remembers their conversation as a turning point. 

“I told her that I wanted to be a doctor or a teacher [because I wanted to help people],” Ellis says. “She said, ‘So why don’t you go into social work?’ She told me that social workers are teachers and mental health professionals, that we help people learn how to navigate environments.

“Then, my professor said, ‘I really don’t see why you can’t be a social worker in Congress someday,’” Ellis continues. “Many of those people have policy backgrounds, and that’s what social work really is.” 

Ellis, who kicked off her campaign this past fall, is running for New Mexico State Senate, representing District 20, which includes sections of Albuquerque and the surrounding area. Ellis must win the primary, set for June 4, 2024, to advance to the Nov. 5, 2024, election. 

“I think it’s really important that New Mexico has a candidate who understands the people and the policies we put into practice,” Ellis says. “Fifteen percent of New Mexico’s population has a disability, so my work is to bring that to the attention of policy makers and legislators.” 

While Ellis understands that some people might see disabilities as a negative, she sees her life experiences as a positive for a public servant. 

“I had to ask myself if New Mexico was ready for a person with disabilities to represent them, and New Mexico is ready because I’m ready to be that person,” Ellis says. “Disability sparks innovation—a lot of people don’t realize that—and I’m going to make sure I’m not the last person with disabilities to run for office in New Mexico.” 

Whether or not her bid for office is successful, Ellis hopes that her campaign serves as an example to others to make their voices heard. 

“We need more people with disabilities to run for office because every disability community member has a different perspective and view,” she says. “I don’t have all the answers, but everyone, no matter our abilities, has a perspective to bring to the table.” 

Ellis encourages members of the disability community to become advocates in their own communities, whether that involves running for office or simply casting their votes. 

“People say, ‘My vote doesn’t count, or my vote doesn’t matter,’ but I say it does,” Ellis says. “At the end of the day, casting your vote is making sure that people you elect to represent you are doing the job you hope they would do on your behalf. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to do something—you do, just have to do it differently.” 

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