What is the meaning of


In this project we are highlighting the experiences of people in the state of Texas.

Brittany Stubblefield-Engram speaks with Haley Hager, a political campaign worker from Frisco, Texas. Hager has spent most of her adult life on the campaign trail moving from state to state. Before her next move, Haley shares how her mother’s love and returning to her childhood home have kept her grounded.

Politics took her across the country, the need to recharge brought her home

Listen to the Story

by BRITTANY STUBBLEFIELD-ENGRAM | Next Generation Radio, Texas Newsroom & UTEP | September 2023

Click here for audio transcript

Hayley Hager:

I don’t know why. The first thing that comes to mind is the King of the Hill theme song. But I watch it whenever I am homesick for Texas.

My name is Hayley Hager. I’m 33 years old. I am a former grad student looking for work. I’m from the North Texas suburbs is what I like to say, because I did move around a little bit when I was younger. Lake Highlands originally. Then my family and I moved to Coppell, Texas, up until I was about 14.

And when I was 14 we moved to Frisco, Texas, and my family home has been here since and I have lived off and on at this Frisco address for the last, oh gosh, over half of my life now, at this point, I hopped around the country for eight, nine years working on various political campaigns. And with that, I mean, anywhere from as local to city council to national, doing everything from being a field organizer and doing community organizing to being a campaign manager.

I have knickknacks everywhere that kind of remind me of the various phases and eras I’ve been in in my life. Immediately after school, when I got a job on my first campaign, I lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Then I moved to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles. I went to see Rapids, Iowa, then to Clearwater, Florida. Madison, Wisconsin. Asbury Park, New Jersey. Iowa. Iowa felt like home for a while at one point because I had a boyfriend there at the time. I also had a very close knit group of friends.

To be that transient in your life, you can’t really settle down in the way that most people settle down. And so you start to make home in people. Some of the staff, including myself, have lived with volunteers in their homes while on campaigns. And so you create this bond with people that you never expected. And they’re just. Betty from Des Moines, Iowa.

So when my mom passed away, I found out that she was sick when I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, working on a campaign on a congressional primary. After that campaign had wrapped up, I was in a conversation with the Hillary Clinton campaign at the time to go out to Florida to go work there. 

It is so great to be back in Florida. 

My mom, I’ll never forget this, told me that, no, you can’t come home because you have to go elect the first woman to be president. 

The most important election in our lifetimes. I’m so grateful. 

That just my mom was. And she knew it was a dream of mine. And so she didn’t want to be the one to stand in the way of that. She ended up passing away. And this was actually the first place that I could finally breathe. Oh, and I love this album. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m never gonna make it home again. 

Carole King’s tapestry reminds me of my mom. This was her favorite album. I bought it unknowingly. I didn’t know that until later in life. 

Someone to talk to. And nobody else knows how to comfort me tonight. 

Every time I listen to this album, it does remind me of home. Ray when I was younger. Going home used to mean coming back to my childhood home. As I’ve gotten older now in my early thirties. Home now almost means multiple different things. It’s not just one place. So if you were to ask me that question at 25, it’s a very different answer than I would give now at 33. 


Haley Hager describes herself as a voyager.

As a political campaign worker, the 33-year-old has lived in nine different places due to her work, including Ocean Township, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Lubbock, Texas.  

 “I lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Then I moved to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles I went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” said Hager.  

Although she has called several of these places home,  her childhood home, nestled in a cul-de-sac in Frisco, Texas, is where she’s been able to grieve, recharge and ground herself. 

Haley Hager, 33, has had pivotal moments in her life traveling for campaign work, but seeks refuge within these four walls in Frisco, Texas. Sept. 4, 2023.


Now is no different, she’s needing some downtime for recovery. 

She had  laparoscopic surgery in August 2023, a procedure that explored endometriosis and fibroid removal. The invasive procedure left her with an adenomyosis diagnosis, a condition that causes the uterine lining to grow into a person’s uterus. While the condition is not life threatening and sometimes disappears after menopause, it is life changing. It has brought her home once again to heal and recover before she prepares for her next move. 

“When I come back to my childhood house, it’s a trip. A lot happened in these four walls,” Hagar said. “When my mom passed away, this was actually the first place that I could finally grieve.”

Hager’s mom died in 2019. She had a significant influence on her life and her work. 

Three years before she died, Hager received a phone call from her mom while working a congressional primary in Iowa.

Hager’s mom had been diagnosed with a rare disease: Cushing’s syndrome.

“I was like, ‘Okay, Mom, do you want me to come home? I’m happy to come home,” Hagar recalls telling her mom.

But her mom refused. 

“My mom, I’ll never forget this, told me that, ‘No, you can’t come home because you have to elect the first woman to be president,’” she said.

Hager went on to fulfill a lifelong dream: moving to Clearwater, Florida to work on the presidential campaign for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Since then, Hager’s political work has taken her to Madison, Wisconsin, Ocean Township, New Jersey, Des Moines, Iowa and Lubbock, Texas.

“My mom, I’ll never forget this, told me that, ‘No, you can’t come home because you have to elect the first woman to be president.’”

Haley Hager

Hager’s orange cat, Chester – full name Chester Cat, for alliteration. He’s lived 14 years, the same length as her many treks across the country. Behind him is a prized stuffed polka dot pig from the Iowa State Fair. Sept. 4, 2023. 


A significant other and a master’s degree carried her to Chicago, Illinois.

Now, after a breakup and a graduation, she sits wariza-style atop a neatly tucked blue comforter. Her senior orange cat, Chester, jumps down.

She’s home. A place where her heart remains tethered a sanctuary where she returns to recharge her spirit.

I’ve left a lot of belongings here because they mean so much to me and I can’t take them on the road with me,” she said. “They’ll just get lost in the shuffle of moving.”

She calls them “knick-knacks” and she has a lot. Old concert tickets, festival passes pinned on the wall, a Coppell Middle School id badge, a sticker that reads: “The world is falling apart around us and I’m dying inside” from the comedy sitcom Schitts Creek

Across the house, Hager’s parents have decorative racks that hang on the wall across from her younger sister’s athletic accomplishments. They are the name badges and lanyards from every single campaign Hager has worked on dating back to her first: Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis in 2014.

Haley Hager’s subtle smile shines through as she clutches her cherished Supremes vinyl. When Hager lived in Los Angeles the first time in 2015 she recalls this Where Did Our Love Go album being a part of her cleaning ritual. “Like, how cool. I live in Los Angeles and I listen to Supremes every Saturday morning,” she shares. Sept. 4, 2023. 


Back in her room is a UT-Austin undergraduate degree in social work that hangs over a desk. The desk, a bit cluttered, ironically houses a copy of  Jack Kerouac’s Home beside a juxtaposing children’s novel — Holes.

The desk also contains a couple of Hager’s most cherished campaign mementos, including  letters personally addressed from Senator Cory Booker and Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  

Another prized item: a photo with former President Barack Obama from the time she worked as a greeter and coat attendant at a political event years ago. 

Hager walks across her bedroom and hunches over a box containing a dozen vinyl records.

They are among her most meaningful items that never leave her bedroom – they’re bulky and irreplaceable and timeless. 

Hager fingers through the vinyls, tiny particles of dust appear. Lifting every other record, shaking her face and hair as dust flies off of them, each album reminds her of a special moment; an anecdote.

She recalls each record store she’s visited and gifts from ex-boyfriends. 

She continues, “I never want to take these on the road because then they’ll get warped.”

Among the albums are Michael Jackson’s Thriller, a second edition pressed copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go, and a favorite of Hager’s mom — Carole King’s Tapestry.

Hager grabs a treasured thank you letter from Hillary Clinton to Florida campaign workers, which she’s proudly displayed in her room. A similar nod from Senator Cory Booker from his 2020 campaign awaits its turn in the background. Sept. 4, 2023. 


This was her favorite album. I bought it unknowingly. I didn’t know that until later in life, but every time I listen to this album, it does remind me of home, you know, she even has that song, ‘I’m Home Again.’” 

Hager is home again. But not before she sets her sights on the West Coast.

Hager’s younger sister has lived in L.A. since about 2015.

“I consider that home, too, because my brother-in-law’s family, his entire family lives out there. And they have been an incredible resource to not only my sister, but have been very welcoming to me, as well.

Hager is moving to Los Angeles later this fall. With a new Master’s in Public Policy degree in tow, she’s looking for work something a bit more stable. 

“I want stability. I want home in a more traditional sense,” she says.

Haley Hager and her younger sister Hilary Hager – Selvin grew up in the suburbs of North Texas with her parents, including mom, Stacy Smith-Hager. Her mom, an inspiring force to Hager’s values including democratic politics and women’s rights.


Haley Hager stands before her brick childhood home in a Frisco cul-de-sac a place that radiates nostalgia and serves as a “recharging station”. “I’ve noticed that when I come home more, I’m a bit more grounded.” Sept. 4, 2023.


She wants a place to call her own, an apartment where she won’t have to break the lease after 12 months. Hager notes the reality of being someone who moves around often: there isn’t the nuance of running into a friend at the grocery store or catching up over dinner, but she honors the many she’s met and the connections and community she’s built over time.

“And it is stressful moving around and trying to figure out what your next job is going to be, but it was so worth it,” she shares.

“I had such a fun time in my 20s and 30s and I am just so excited for my next chapter of settling down,” she said.