Lasting Impressions: Irene Andrews

Irene Andrews, right, is seen with her partner, Joan Hinshaw, and Hinshaw’s great-granddaughter, Kaya Krieger, 11, as they celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay rights in 2013.

Irene Andrews uses her anger as motivation.

Soon after she moved to the area in 1999 with her then-partner, now-wife Joan Hinshaw, she had a particularly traumatic experience at a local hospital.

Her grandson, who is Hinshaw’s by blood, had just been born and was in the neo-natal intensive care unit.

Andrews went to see the child with Hinshaw. They both scrubbed up. But the nurse would only let in Hinshaw.

Crying outside the thick metal door that separated her from her ailing grandson, whether by blood or not, she said she felt “powerless.”

“And I knew then that there was a lot of work to be done,” Andrews said.

I met Andrews in 2011 when she announced she was running for Precinct 4 county commissioner. The county had not elected a Democrat in more than a decade, but Andrews was confident.

She introduced herself bluntly, telling me right off that she was a lesbian.

Andrews married Hinshaw after voters in 2012 legalized gay marriage in Washington state. They have been married for a little more than three months — a 30-year engagement, Hinshaw joked.

Andrews said her political leanings were somewhat formed by her father, a Methodist minister in the 1960s who many considered a radical leftist. She remembers death threats made to her father and students in grade school who called her “pinko.”

Andrews is now a special education teacher at Venerable Village Elementary School at Fort Hood.

She ultimately lost the election, but has continued to organize for the Bell County Democrats believing the county and state will eventually flip blue.

But Andrews keeps herself busy beyond politics. On Friday, it was a bit of composting. She was going to teach a younger couple how to compost Saturday and was prepping her pot of rotting vegetation, strips of torn newsprint and worms. She was genuinely excited.

But she grinned widely when she showed the Proposition 6 fliers that recently arrived at her doorstep. She had marked them up with a Sharpie, writing “Vote no!” and “Nix to six!”

Contact Philip Jankowski at or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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