Though they have two lifetimes’ worth of experience working together, the twin sisters running for office in opposing parties saw their chance to serve on the same Michigan county board end on Tuesday.
Monica Sparks, a Democrat, came out on top to represent the 12th district on the Kent County Board of Commissioners, while her identical twin, Jessica Ann Tyson, a Republican, did not fare as well.
“I’m super excited, but it’s bittersweet because of course, my sissy didn’t win,” Sparks told InsideEdition.com.
Unofficial results showed Tyson finished second in the 13th district, being beat by Democrat Betsy Melton, who got 1,687 more votes.
“The blue wave was real; it was very real for me,” Tyson said. “When it’s all said and done, we have to listen to the voters. I don’t take it personally.”
That approach — to remove the personal from the political — served Tyson and Sparks well as they campaigned on different platforms while maintaining a healthy relationship as sisters, while ever mindful that their similarities are greater than their differences.
“We say it all the time, but the left wing and the right wing belong to the same bird,” Tyson said.
Though the victory was still fresh, Sparks on Wednesday said she was ready to hit the ground running.
“There’s lots to do,” she said, noting she wants to ensure the county allocates the proper funds to mental health services in the community. “We need to make sure we have healthy, strong minds.”
Other items on her agenda include making sure services are available to senior citizens, veterans and those with special needs, she said.
“I’m here to listen, learn and serve,” Sparks said. “I don’t like to call myself a politician; I like to call myself an advocate … it’s time people roll up their sleeves. Politics are not cutesy anymore. [Elected official] is not just some title.”
Representation matters, she noted, aware that as the first woman — and the first woman of color — to be elected to her position, she could bring a unique view to the role that others before her did not have.
“I’m looking at it as a way to help inspire others that can do more,” she said. “If they look at me and they say, ‘Hey, if that lady can do it … maybe I can be the next president.’ For a young black girl, young Latina … they have opportunities too. You have a voice and you need to use it.”
Sparks said she also plans to reach across the aisle to her fellow board members to make sure progress is actually made, noting she would not hesitate to lean on her sister as well to get the other side’s perspective.
“I think that when I have an issue I can’t understand, I need to be able to say to my sister, or whomever I serve with on the board … I have to be willing to ask questions, I have to be willing to listen,” Sparks said. “If I don’t do that, how will I know where I’m falling short?”
Tyson said she’s more than willing to be that voice for Sparks.
“I will be here to support Monica when she has questions or she wants an ear to listen to her, or if she needs advice,” Tyson said. “From my vantage point, I’m going to be there to share my thoughts … Monica and I always say we may not agree on everything, but we may agree on something.”
Though she didn’t win on Tuesday, the 2018 campaign won’t be Tyson’s last, she said.
“I won’t stop, I can’t be stopped … that’s my heart’s desire,” she said. “I do feel like, I, as a business woman, as an advocate for people … their voices need to be heard. People are starting to understand that they need proper representation. They have to stop looking at party affiliation. I’m sure that will come.
"... I’ll be here, waiting.”