The Value of Work and Community

I was the first of four children born in a small town to a modest working-class family. My late father worked for an elevator company, where he was in charge of shipping parts and materials to various branch locations for assembly. My mother worked on an assembly line soldering and packaging the components for microphones and telecommunications devices. They were not high-paying jobs at all. In fact, we lived in a mobile home for several years until upgrading to a small home that was barely 1,000 square feet when I was in high school. My bedroom was a converted chicken coop that I could almost touch wall to wall.

But what we lacked in luxury, we made up for in being part of a strong, loving family and an even larger local community of extended family and friends. My mom was always there to help with homework. My dad would give me soccer pointers after practice. And we had uncles, aunts, grandparents, great grandparents, and about 100 cousins all within 10 minutes of our home. I remember being accepted to a talented and gifted program at Duke University in seventh grade. I thought I wouldn’t be able to go because the tuition and airfare would be a few thousand dollars. That didn’t faze my family. My mom and aunts got to work making hundreds of homemade tacos and burritos they sold to people in the community and raised the money in no time.

Mom's Family
Marriage Renewal
Mom and Dad With Family

The Shaping of My Political Views

I became interested in politics when I was going through my dad’s old collection of records in the 1980s. Among the Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Grand Funk Railroad, and Led Zeppelin was a record containing speeches of President John F. Kennedy. I remember being taken by the way he confronted issues head on and challenged Americans to join him in doing better, particularly on issues of civil rights. That same summer, I spent most of my days in the public library reading a different book daily, from Isaac Asimov to Stephen King. But I always set aside some time to go through old microfiche reading stories about the civil rights era. This would form the foundation of my core values, one of which is that government has a significant role in protecting the rights of its citizens and should be filled with politicians who wield that power responsibly.

My parents were not political at all, but their actions were an example of how the power of service to others can triumph over individual needs. My mother made countless mums, crafts, and other homemade items for friends and family throughout the year. To this day, she will make a meal for someone who is going through a bad ordeal or just because she wants to show she cares. My father was a volunteer coach for decades, coaching young girls in soccer until they graduated high school. And when one of those girls had a problem, he didn’t hesitate to spring into action and lend a hand where he could.

Micheal Playing High School Soccer
Christmas Time at the Garza Household
Micheal in Elementary School

Entrepreneurial Beginnings

I graduated third in my class in high school and went on to go to college at Rice University to study chemical engineering. Chemistry had always been a passion of mine, dating back to my first chemistry class with Mrs. Arno, a brilliant teacher who had a knack for weaving together the science with creative experiments to capture the attention of the classroom. Unfortunately, the engineering tract did not quite have the same effect on me. Despite earning an academic scholarship based on my first semester grades, I became disinterested until we began using a new tool, the internet, to research subject matter and turn in our homework. Soon, in 1994, I was building my first website, before most people had even visited a website.

I left Rice, took computer science courses closer to home, and started my first business venture – building websites and providing consulting services to local businesses looking to get into the new internet space. Eventually I ended up at an upstart company, MindSpring, which would later become EarthLink. I started at the bottom answering support calls from internet customers. Over several years, I worked my way up through the company becoming the product manager with P&L responsibility for the web hosting and business internet divisions of EarthLink.

In 2008, the Great Recession hit and I was one of millions who ended up on the short end of layoffs. With hiring almost non-existent, I decided to invest in myself and used my 401(K) to fund starting my web development business. It was the second best decision I’ve ever made next to marrying my wife. After 13 years, I’ve helped dozens of small-business owners get their company off the ground.

You've Got Mail, the Original Hanks/Ryan Romance Story

Yes, my wife Samantha and I did originally meet in an AOL chatroom the same year the movie “You’ve Got Mail” came out, although that might be where the similarities end. I didn’t put my wife out of business nor did I go on to a successful film career doing rom-coms. But we would soon meet at her best friend’s wedding where it was love at first sight for me. Two of my happiest moments in life were when she said yes and when we were married in front of friends and family.

In 20 years together, we’ve had a very fulfilling life. We love to take road trips – we’ve traveled to almost every corner of the state and the surrounding states, enjoying the beautiful mountains in North Georgia, soaking in the rich history of Savannah, touring the orchards throughout South Georgia, and basking in the beautiful beaches of Florida. I’m truly fortunate I get to spend the rest of my life with this woman.

Pre-Wedding Photo
Honeymoon in Marco Island Florida
The Big Wedding Day

No One Prepared Me For How Much I Would Love My Daughter

In 2016, we welcomed Emma into this world, and she instantly changed our lives. We said goodbye to sleep and a clutter-free home and replaced it with a home filled with laughter, love, and more dinosaur memorabilia than we ever knew existed. Our favorite time together is story time where we both make up stories daily that chronicle the life of a fictional dinosaur child named King and his parents Big King and Queen Kwabe. I’ve never met a child more creative, independent, sweet, caring, and perhaps mischievous.

When I decided to run for office, it was her buy-in that I needed most. We’ve had to teach her about the voting process, political office, and the importance of being a part of it all. She thinks it is cool that “Daddy” would get to make the rules if I win – so much so that she wants to run for office someday in addition to being a “big rig” driver, a helicopter pilot, and a paleontologist. Her platform is a bit different from mine – her main rule is that everyone has to hold someone’s hand when they cross the street.

Emma Pre-School Photo
Mama and Emma at Easter
East Cobb Park Time with Emma

Why I Am Running

The foundation of who I am comes from a life built around family, love, community, service to others, and the value of hard work. What I see coming out of this state is far from that. I see state representatives who are catering to the worst parts of who we are just to remain in office. I see a dangerous allegiance to an ex-president who still can’t admit he lost an election. And I see a state and a country that is more divided than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. That is not a world I want to leave for my daughter or for anyone’s children.

I am running because I can’t stand back and watch as this continues unchecked. I am running to give a voice to those who feel they don’t have a voice in our political system. I am running to pass real, achievable legislation that improves the lives of Georgians, especially those who have been marginalized for so long.  I am running to give our children the future that they deserve and one we can be proud to leave them as parents.

I will not make promises that I cannot keep. But what I can promise is that I come to this position from the right place – out of a place of love for my fellow Georgians and my desire to make your lives better. And this is how I will approach legislation: if I can’t come home and explain my vote on a particular bill to my daughter, then I can’t in, good conscience, vote for that bill.

I appreciate you taking the time to get to know me. And over the course of this campaign, I hope to earn your vote.