Photography by Danny Fulgencio

In November of 2019, Regina Harris became the first Black woman elected to the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees. After 30 years working in corporate America for Coca-Cola, Yum! Brands, Pizza Hut and technology company Webvent, Harris decided to run for school board after it was redistricted to create more diversity. Before winning the election with 52% of the vote, Harris was on the district’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

On running for office for the first time:

On Election Day, I was extremely nervous. The results were super close, and I had been hearing from so many people that it was going to be tough for me to get that 50% [to avoid a runoff]. By 2 or 3 a.m., I felt pretty good. It was a very long day.

What the board has been working on:                                                   

Just the whole structure of what school looks like. We went to spring break and never returned. We’ve dealt with that, in addition to the ongoing uptick in the diversity issues that have accumulated in our world today.

How she sees her job:

My personal goal is education and communication to my community, board members and the district. For myself, I’ve been sitting back and listening to stories — stories that are like mine, stories that are not like mine. Everyone has a different focus, a different feel, a different story in reference to racial disparity, their experiences, their non-experiences.

The best part of being a board member:

In the beginning, it was getting out to the schools and listening to the principals and teachers. I’ve never been a teacher. Now that we’re behind computers and practicing social distancing, it really has made you sit down, hunker down and truly listen with your ears. That’s probably my favorite part. Now I’m itching to go out there to help and do something. 

How her presence has changed the board:

There has definitely been more attention to diversity. It’s been the elephant in the room, but now people are beginning to talk freely about it. People feel like they can be authentic and that they are open to ask those tough questions. I think it takes people like me, who have a positive attitude about it, to make them feel comfortable about what they want to say. 

How corporate America shaped her:

Being part of some of the organizations that I worked for, like Coca-Cola and Pizza Hut, has helped me develop some of my diverse background. I worked around people that don’t look like me and had to feel comfortable in that environment. I also learned simple articulation of things and I understand concepts that someone who hasn’t worked in corporate America may not be able to do.

At home during the pandemic:

We are doing well. My son Brian is a senior at Richardson High School. It’s been a little tough for him. He plays a huge role in the band and just made drum major. He’s super excited to get back to his friends and normalcy.

Her biggest inspiration:

Maya Angelou. I find myself going back and looking up something that she said and trying to apply it to my everyday life.