As you may have heard, I am running for Mayor of Westfield. I look forward to getting to know many of you personally over the next six months, but until then, allow me to introduce myself beyond the formal bio.
I was raised the youngest of three girls and the daughter of an Air Force pilot and stay-at-home mom. When I was six, my life changed forever with a knock on the door at our Las Vegas home. An Air Force chaplain informed us that my dad's plane had been shot down over North Vietnam. He was killed in action one week before he was coming home. Though grief-stricken, my mom picked herself up, created a new life for us in Grafton, Virginia and eventually established a career for herself as a nutrition director for Meals-On-Wheels. The experience of losing my dad, and witnessing my mom’s resilient spirit, instilled in me a fierce independence, a strong moral compass and a fearlessness to challenge other people’s expectations of what is possible.
It was this same mentality that enabled me to win a full-tuition scholarship to University of Virginia, where I earned a varsity letter as manager for the football team. Yep, that’s right. I lettered in football at UVA. And more importantly, the football field is where I met my future husband, Kip, an offensive lineman on the Peach Bowl championship team. Kip works tirelessly as a volunteer to support Westfield kids. Offensive lineman that he is, he does it for the community, not the credit.
Kip and I eventually settled in Westfield and had three kids. Grace is a senior and Nora a sophomore at WHS; our son Nick is a sixth grader at Roosevelt. This is the only home they’ve ever known.
When I was 24, I landed a job at HBO, a place that provides boundless opportunities for someone like me who thrives in a culture that is fun, collaborative and constantly evolving.
Twenty years later, I became the first woman on the executive floor overseeing its $4.5 billion domestic subscription business. I had the chance to launch some of HBO’s most innovative products, but what I learned in the process was far more valuable: The best ideas come from the people you lead, not from the leaders themselves. This lesson is at the root of my leadership philosophy: (1) Be open about what’s going on; (2) Empower people to speak up and make decisions; and (3) Hold everyone accountable. Over time, I realized that this lesson is sorely needed beyond the world of media.
After 27 years at HBO, I left to pay forward the opportunities I have experienced. I am acutely aware that my good fortune was largely due to those who mentored me, took a chance on me or even just put up with me. I started a leadership consulting firm, got more involved in many non-profit organizations and became an active participant in our town.
Just as many of you have mentioned to me, I’ve noticed with concern the vacancies in town. It hit home when Thinka Dinka – the toy store where my daughter worked — closed in January. I started asking questions about the vision for a new downtown. In my quest, I realized that our town is at an inflection point where we need to pivot from our past success toward an innovative future; a moment that requires a new type of collaborative leadership, one that is transparent with citizens, empowers them to be heard and establishes mutual accountability. Sound familiar? It dawned on me that in pursuit of more meaningful work, the greatest opportunity to make a difference was in my own backyard.
The decision to run for mayor was not an easy one. I cherish my life in Westfield, where I can be a mom on the sidelines wearing yoga pants and a baseball cap without fear of judgment. Why give up the safety of that anonymity? Then my 18-year-old daughter reminded me of what I always say: Take the challenge; Defy other people’s expectation; Do what you can to help. Of course, she is right — kids often are. That’s why I am proud to participate in the resurgence of the town I love, ensuring that future residents can experience the same special community I did.
I am honored to be running with four equally committed Westfield residents — Linda Habgood, Michael Dardia, David Contract and Dawn Mackey. We intend to run the type of campaign that models for our kids what our community does best: Treating each other with kindness and respect. We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and service of all our elected officials, who are driven by the same desire to make a difference. As we get to know you in the coming months, we will work to earn your support for the opportunity to serve this community over the next four years.
I would love to meet you in person at my kick-off reception at Ferraro’s (14 Elm Street) on Thursday, May 4, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Also, please join me on this journey by following me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I look forward to seeing you around town or on your doorstep.
This originally appeared as a letter to the editor on TAPIntoWestfield.net