In celebration of Texas Independence Day, we sat down with dynamic Houstonian and Texas Radio Hall of Famer Dayna Steele
Steele is many things. Not only is she creator of the Rock Star Principles podcast, but also a successful entrepreneur, motivational keynote speaker and author of numerous books.
And she hasn’t stopped there. In 2018, Steele saw a need for a change in the Texas 36th Congressional District, which lies to the east of Houston. Always ready for a challenge, she made the decision to exercise her Texas independence and run for office.
Running for office is one of the most patriotic things you can do for your community and for your country. However, most citizens don’t because they don’t know where to start. Now, Steele, along with Clear Lake college student Scott Schroder, has created the ultimate guide to get anyone started—from running for student council to the US Congress. 101 Ways to Rock Running for Office is a must-read for every wannabe candidate and organizer.
Where did you grow up and what makes that place special to you?
I’m a third-generation Houstonian and a fifth-generation Texan. I’ve always told people who ask me about Houston, “It’s like a really big small home town where everyone knows everyone and people take care of each other.”
You were a successful DJ at Houston’s iconic rock station KLOL. How did you get started in radio?
I auditioned for the new student radio station, KAMU-FM College Station, at Texas A&M University in 1977 because I was trying to impress a DJ at the pop station in Bryan. He never asked me out, but I got the job. The minute I put the headphones on, I knew I was home.
By 1978, I’d dropped out of school. To get my foot in the door, I started in the office at KRLY-FM in Houston. After three weeks, I got up my courage. I told the Program Director I had an operator’s license (something you had to have to be on the air back then) and that I would like to do a shift. He literally patted me on the head and shooed me out of his office.
That night, the overnight DJ didn’t show up and I was the only one available in any shape to go on the air. The next night they had to call me again. They fired him, gave a weekender that full-time overnight shift, and gave me two weekend shifts to start. A few months later, they changed the format and most of the full-time staff was either fired or quit. I was promoted to full time and stayed on the air in Houston for the next 20+ years.
Which Texas musicians made a big impact on you?
The first was Don Drachenberg. He was (and still is) the drummer for the Triumphs, originally the band with BJ Thomas. He was also my history teacher and bus driver at Dulles High School in Stafford Texas. He wore the worst wig to hide his long hair. We all thought he was so cool. Lyle Lovett played the Aggie Playhouse a lot when I was at A&M and worked with the theatre group, Aggie Players. He opened for us and we opened for him. I found his music and work ethic amazing.
Since deciding to run for office, have you received support from musicians?
I was fortunate to gain early support from Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby. They did a very successful fundraiser for me early on in my campaign. And, once I won my primary, Melissa did two more fundraisers for me. All the performances were amazing and I was so honored they took the time to do it.
What do you think makes Texas so special and independent?
We are big and spread out and, even with political differences, some extreme, we still take care of each other for the most part. I travel the world a lot and can tell you there is NO other place in the world quite like Texas.
What made you run for office in 2018?
I was not happy with the 2016 results and went looking to find out who was running for various offices in 2018. I was always a regular voter in big races but really didn’t pay much attention to politics at any other time. I was shocked to see no one had run as a Democrat in my congressional district in the last race and no one was planning to do it at first in 2018.
As I learned more, I didn’t like the policies I saw my congressional rep fighting for. And, democracy requires participation from all of us. I think many more have started to learn this very important lesson in the last few years.
If someone is thinking about running (whether for student council or US Congress), what are the first steps you recommend?
Step one, read my latest book! Then figure out how much time you have to give to the project. Next, attend local meetings – city council, school board, political clubs, etc. Research the field—who are the current reps, what do they stand for, who’s running. Finally, pick the issues you align with. (Mine was always Healthcare + Education = Jobs)
Your new book was written with Clear Lake college student Scott Schroder. How did that happen?
Scott and his parents were great volunteers early on in the campaign. As it started to pick up steam and get busy, Scott was hired onto the staff as my body man or personal aide.
101 Ways to Rock Running for Office is available from booksellers everywhere.
Cover photo courtesy Dayna Steele
Leona Barr is a freelance writer living in Austin.