Erika Lees Donalds is an education entrepreneur, former school board member, wife of Florida Congressman Byron Donalds and the mother of their three children. Erika Donalds’ husband has been put forward as a nominee for Speaker of the House of Representatives by a group of holdout Republicans who oppose California Representative Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy to lead the GOP’s majority in the House.
While her husband currently sits in elected office, Erika Donalds has also had a long history of being involved in politics and Republican movements in Florida and across the country. She has been a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business and other conservative TV shows and radio talk shows, according to her social media profiles. Byron Donalds, of Naples, served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2016 to 2020 before being elected to represent Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2020. He was re-elected to a second term in 2020.
Erika Donalds, 42, is an accountant who founded OptimaEd, an education company that runs several charter schools in Florida as The Optima Foundation. She served on the Collier County Board of Education from 2014 to 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile. She described herself in her Instagram bio as a, “Christ follower | Byron’s wife | #BoyMom | Liberty Lover | CEO | Maximizer | Fighter for #EducationFreedom | Happiest on the beach 🏖.”
Here’s what you need to know about Erika Donalds, Byron Donalds’ wife:
1. Erika Lees Donalds, Who Grew Up in Tampa, Has Been Married to Byron Donalds Since 2003; She & Her Husband Both Attended Florida State University
Erika Lees Donalds is originally from Tampa, Florida, and attended Chamberlain Senior High School there, according to her Facebook page. She then graduated from Florida State University with a degree in accounting in 2002 and earned her master’s degree, also in accounting, from Florida Atlantic University in 2006, according to her Facebook page.
Erika Donalds’ husband, Byron Donalds, also attended Florida State and graduated in 2002. The couple has been married since March 15, 2003, according to Erika’s Facebook page. In March 2022, Erika Donalds wrote on Facebook, “Celebrating 19 years with the love of my life! My hero, my soulmate, and the best decision I’ve ever made. I choose you again and again, a thousand times over.”
Byron Donalds also shared a photo from their wedding in March 2022 on their anniversary, and wrote on Facebook, “Can’t let the day end without wishing my wife, Erika, a happy anniversary! I’m blessed to have you as my life partner, mother of our three boys, and my devoted wife.”
2. Erika & Byron Donalds Have 3 Sons: Damon, Darin & Mason
Erika and Byron Donalds have three sons: Damon, Darin and Mason, according to Byron’s biography on the House website. In June 2022, Erika Donalds posted a photo of their family on Father’s Day on Instagram and wrote, “Happy Fathers Day, @byrondonalds! I’ve always said that God gave us boys so the world could have more men like you. We love you and we celebrate the beautiful legacy you are leaving for generations to come.”
Their son, Damon Donalds, plays college football for the Holy Cross Crusaders in Massachusetts, according to the school’s website. Damon Donalds, a graduate of the Community School of Naples, is a sophomore defensive lineman for the Crusaders.
In December 2021, she posted a photo of her sons on Instagram and wrote, “Reunited and it feels so good! @damon.d59 is finally home for the holidays and all is right with the world for this happy momma 🥰”
3. Erika Donalds Became a Face of the School Choice Movement in Florida After She Says Her Son Had a ‘Negative Experience’ in a Public School, Leading to Her Run for the Local School Board
According to FloridaPolitics.com, Erika Donalds, “serves as the face of school choice in Florida.” She told the newspaper she became interested in school choice when her middle son had a negative experience in public schools. She and her husband tried to get her son into a charter school but faced a long waiting list, according to the article.
Erika Donalds then became a school choice activist and ran for the Collier County School Board, winning a seat as a Republican in 2014. She told FloridaPolitics.com she decided not to run for re-election in 2018 because she wanted to spend more time with her family.
According to the OptimaEd website, “Erika is a former elected member of the Collier County School Board. She served on Florida’s 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission as well as Governor DeSantis’ Advisory Committee on Education and Workforce Development. Erika now serves on the Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees, and on advisory boards for Classical Learning Test, Moms for Liberty, and the Independent Women’s Forum Education Freedom Center.”
4. Erika Donalds Founded OptimaEd in November 2017 After a Career in Finance
Erika Donalds worked in finance before becoming involved in education. “Prior to launching Optima, Erika was Chief Financial Officer/Chief Compliance Officer and Partner at DGHM, an investment management firm. She served with the company for almost 20 years and was responsible for the finance, compliance, and operations, in addition to serving on the firm’s Management Committee. In 2014, Erika was named one of Gulfshore Business magazine’s 40-Under-40,” the OptimaEd website states.
She founded OptimaEd in 2017. On the OptimaEd website, Erika Donalds wrote, “As a mother of three, I understand it’s critical to give parents the power to select the optimal academic environment for every child. OptimaEd focuses on creating excellent education experiences and increasing high quality options for students and their families. Our organization is founded on core principles – including integrity, professionalism, and service.
She added, “We seek to be a valuable resource for the education community as a forward-thinking force for the innovation and refinement of our tools. Optima uses time-tested methods to prepare students to think critically and to equip them to confront the inevitable challenges all generations must face. Most importantly, we are committed to bringing knowledge and virtue to every student we serve. I hope you will join us!”
5. Erika Donalds Spoke Out Over the Rules for Unvaccinated Attenders, Like Herself, of a Reception for Congressional Spouses Hosted by First Lady Jill Biden at the White House in March 2022
Erika Donalds gained attention in March 2022 when she posted about the rules for a White House reception for Congressional spouses hosted by First Lady Jill Biden. Erika Donalds tweeted, “First Lady Jill Biden was kind enough to invite me & the other Congressional spouses to a reception at the White House. I just have to take a COVID test, & as an unvaccinated person (with natural immunity) I won’t be allowed to eat, drink, or talk to anyone. Should be a blast! 🥂”
She appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson to talk about the event, according to her Facebook page. She wrote on Facebook, “Thanks First Lady Jill Biden, but a reception where I’m asked to refrain from eating and drinking and stay in a 6 foot bubble does not sound like a good time. The White House needs to drop these ridiculous mandates and just let people be free.”
Erika Donalds told Carlson, “It wasn’t very inviting to say the least. … They sent out a save the date for this reception and I responded, I RSVP’d yes. And I’m one of the few conservative wives that will actually will accept an invitation from the White House. … I didn’t receive the COVID protocols until after I had already made my travel plans to go to the reception in Washington D.C.
She added, “As you know, I was in Naples, Florida, in the free state of Florida in paradise, but when I saw those COVID protocols I definitely had to take a second thought of whether I want to attend and exert my freedom to live as a free person and exercise my rights to eat and drink at a reception like everyone else, despite not being vaccinated.”