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When Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy, Shasta McManus immediately signed up to volunteer, and was eventually hired before the primary to open the Obama office in Tucson. In the process, the Pima County Democratic Party took notice of this young, fresh face. Although Obama is about to take office, McManus hasn't stopped campaigning; instead, she's answering Obama's call for a day of service with Stuff the Truck, a food drive and fundraiser for the Community Food Bank. There are at least 25 other service events taking place locally. For more information, visit the USA Service Web site.

Barak Obama was your first choice. How did you decide he was the person you wanted to support?

I had never even heard of Barack Obama before his stunning Democratic National Convention speech during the last election (four years ago). That was when I knew that this was the man to watch. Over the next three years, I discovered a candidate who shared many of my same views on everything from the issues of the average American to the war in Iraq.

You were one of the first people in Tucson to call attention to his campaign. People really took notice. How did you first get involved?

There were a few months back in early 2007 when we knew Obama was going to throw his hat into the ring, despite statements to the contrary. When the big announcement was finally made, I simply went to the (campaign) Web site and signed up to volunteer. Soon after that, they sent out assignments to help volunteers recruit other volunteers and ease us into taking on larger roles, so I found some amazing volunteers to help host our first neighborhood canvass--Walk for Change, in June 2007. It's hard to believe that we have been working on a campaign for this long.

You grew up in a small town outside of Dallas. Was your family very political or influential in how you vote today?

Funny enough, I cannot remember my family being political at all growing up, even though we had so many reasons to be. I grew up in small-town Texas with a lesbian mother; we had discriminations to face that were quite rare in our neck of the woods, and at a time when the GLBT community hadn't found their mainstream icons like Ellen (DeGeneres) or Melissa Etheridge. The 1980s were a very interesting time for me, and I could see how all of those experiences really propelled my interest in politics. I still laugh about how it wasn't until 2004 that I finally convinced my mother that she was a Democrat.

How did this idea of Stuff the Truck come about for the day of service, and why benefit the Community Food Bank?

We were introduced to the National Day of Service right before Christmas, and along with helping coordinate all the events in Tucson, we were also asked to host one of our own. After reading about all the struggles the Community Food Bank was going through, we couldn't think of a better organization to help ... So on Monday. Jan. 19, we are parking a large truck at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at Reid Park, and we hope to fill it to the top and raise as much money as we can.

So now that Obama is about to become president, where is Shasta McManus going to put all of this newfound political experience, interest and energy?

Right now, I have a beautiful 2-year-old son who I devote all my energy to. But if the right candidate comes around, who I believe in just as much as President-elect Obama, I could see myself jumping ... to help in any way. In the meantime, I will continue to volunteer with the party and within the community, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

What was the best experience for you during the Obama campaign?

You wouldn't believe how many amazing volunteers I met during this campaign. ... (T)here were people like retired Brig. Gen. John Adams; we were so lucky to have found him right here in Tucson. He ended up sharing his story and leadership all across the country with Obama. He stood on stage at the DNC, and was even featured in the 30-minute Obama commercial. I truly hope that one day, he will run for office himself; that is one campaign I could see myself putting as much time and energy into as I did this one.


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