A Call to Duty: Kris Lesher-Aring ‘89

by Marnie McLeod Santoyo

In Kris Lesher-Aring’s childhood home, a commitment to political activism and community service was as much valued as brushing her teeth or cleaning her room. Not only is she a maternal descendent of Dean Lesher—a California newspaper publisher whose crusading style and community activism for over 50 years is credited with helping to build and shape numerous Northern and Central California communities—but her paternal anecdotes have maintained active involvement in the Republican party.

“Around the dinner table, politics was the norm,” says Kris, 34, of Clayton, CA. “I grew up knowing that if you want to make a difference, you have to get involved.”

And involved she has been. Currently Kris serves as the state chairperson for the Young Republican Federation of California; and was an elected member of the County Republican Central Committee for six years. In addition, she worked for two years as a legislative aid with California Assemblywoman Lynne Leach (R-15th Assembly District).

But ask Kris about the numerous contributions she’s made to the political process and she offers this humble response.

“I don’t think what I’ve done is that remarkable. I see what I’m doing as a call to duty, as serving my country.”

All in the Family Activism

“Yes, I was raised in a Republican household,” Kris says, “But it wasn’t until I grew up, got a job, paid taxes—that’s when I really began to independently believe in party philosophies.”

After a brief stint as an executive in retail management—a position where her dealings with the labor union management served as her personal “turning point for embracing conservatism”—and after successful completion of a graduate degree in health administration at the University of Southern California, Kris turned her attention once more to local and national politics, working on congressional campaigns and later becoming an aide for Assemblywoman Leach.

After two years as an aide, Kris had a baby and decided to stay home with her family. Now as wife to Steve Aring, a second-grade teacher, and as an at-home mother of two—Christopher, 4, and new baby Kathryn, nine months—she remains a dedicated volunteer for her causes.

“What keeps me involved is the fact that there’s not anything you can do in a day that the government isn’t involved in,” Kris says. “From health care decisions to your job to taxes to the car you drive, the government has some role in it. And that’s why I stay involved.”

Kris’ diligent service has earned her the honor of meeting many political luminary on the campaign trails, including former California Governor Pete Wilson, Senator John McCain, and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. She’s also lucky enough to have attended two presidential inaugurations: for Ronald Reagan’s second term and for George W. Bush.

At Reagan’s inaugural ceremony, Kris was one of two students representing her high school, Forest Lake Christian School in Auburn, CA., which had been one of few schools nationwide issued an invitation. Naturally, student body president Kris jumped at the chance to witness this historical event.

“What I remember most,” says Kris, “is feeling inspired to get involved with the political process. I felt a lot of pride in my country and in what American stands for.”

Not surprising, Kris has been approached to run for political office. But she says she has no intentions of jumping on the political grandstand.

“I could never run for office for one reason—I hate to ask for money,” Kris says.

“I feel I’m a better organizer and behind-the-scenes person than a candidate.”

Beyond Partisan Politics

But Kris’ activism isn’t limited to the political arena. She recently participated in San Francisco’s Three-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, served as the first chair for the Women and Heart Disease Conference, and continues to play an active role in her local church’s backpack program for needy children. She also takes time to speak at her former high school’s government classes about the importance of voting.

“I strongly encourage students to participate in the poetical process—and the absolute easiest way is to vote,” Kris says.

On the flip side, Kris is moved by the feats of people who role up their sleeves and get things done.

“From the breast cancer walk to running for office—it’s amazing when ordinary people get together to do extraordinary things,” she says.

“And it is crucial to remember that those contributing to community service or running for political office are ordinary people, she continues. “The only difference is that they make a public resolve to participate in and represent their community and actively support their principles and beliefs.

“And if you put yourself out there, work for what you really believe in, no matter what your party affiliation, no one can fault you for that.”