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Mayors Share Wisdom with Girl Scouts at Camp Moxie (video)

Mayors Share Wisdom with Girl Scouts at Camp Moxie (video)baby01

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 29, 2014)

In a world where women don’t always support each other as well as they could, three organizations partner together to change that. The Girl Scouts of SE Michigan, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and the Women Official’s Network Foundation hosted Camp Moxie earlier this month, providing dozens of young ladies the chance to learn, connect, grow and empower each other with a week’s worth of activities. Among them was a visit to the Oakland County Commission Building to hear from three inspiring women role models: the Mayors of Pontiac, Oak Park and Brown City.

The Madam Mayors talked about some of the challenges they had to overcome to find their places as community leaders, and gave advice about following whatever their passion is.

Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman was a Girl Scout when she was younger, and an optometrist for many ctechadyears before becoming the top elected official of her city. She said that she hadn’t planned on getting involved in politics until she read a story about the public library having to close. “I was out with some friends and I read this article and I said, ‘Somebody’s got to do something about this.’ And they looked at me and said ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’” She went to work creating a campaign to save the library, and was then appointed President of the Board. When she felt that the City needed new leadership, she stepped up to run for Mayor.

“Sometimes if you are passionate about something, and you feel like you can make a change, you find courage,” Mayor Waterman said. When asked if there was any additional challenge being a female, the Mayor said “I don’t see being a woman as a barrier to achieving what we want to achieve. I know there are Reid_Sally_115still some ceilings to be cracked, but the fact is that we can crack them, that we no longer accept limitations as we did 30 years ago…I don’t think you have to be daunted by what you want to achieve.”

Mayor Marian McClellan of Oak Park had to overcome fears in order to feel “ready” for taking on the Mayor’s race. “I was afraid of public speaking. Well, that’s pretty tricky if you’re going to be the Mayor and you’re afraid of public speaking. So you sort of have to feel the fear and do it anyway. And as time goes on you get more used to it,” she said. “If you stop focusing on what the people are thinking of you, and focus on what the people need to hear, it helps you get over your fear because it’s not about you.”

The other struggle for Mayor McClellan was the harshness of her opponent and his supporters in the campaign and afterward. “Generally there aren’t any ‘haters’ in your life, but in an elected office when you sidebar01reader_supportwalk in there are people who hate you who have never met you, because you’re not the other guy. And so dealing with the fact that everybody is not going to like you was a challenge I think.”

But overall, the rewards have outweighed the challenges and she encourages young women not to be afraid or to limit themselves. “You are making a difference in many different ways. The bus driver who is cheerful and makes traveling a special thing. There’s no one way to make a difference in this world, you need to find your own path.”

Brown City Mayor Christine Lee served her community as City Clerk before running for City Council and then Mayor. “The seated Mayor, there was a lot of places I would go in her place. And I thought, if I’m going to go in her place, I may as well hold the title. So I ran against her and I beat her.”

Mayor Lee said that women can bring a spirit of collaboration to the table. “You don’t have to know Judy_Palmer30yearseverything, but do your homework. You have great people under you, rely on them too,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to work side by side with somebody. A good leader does not need to be the boss.” She said that she had always been an introverted person, but one trick she learned was that when there were events she would not always just sit with her friends, but instead would sit with people she did not know and engage them in conversation that way.

The President of the Women Officials Network, Mary Kerwin, moderated the discussion panel. She also sent the teens off with her own words of wisdom. “We believe in you. We celebrate you…. We do want to plant Candlewickshop_May2014these seeds… Will you consider a run for office? Will you consider getting involved in your clubs, in your schools, in your congregations, city or township? You already have everything it takes to be successful in elected or appointed office. We look forward to seeing all of the things you can do in your futures and we hope that we will be a part of it.”

For more information on Women Officials Network see http://womenofficialsnetwork.org.

For more on Michigan Women’s Foundation see http://www.miwf.org/.

For more on Girl Scouts of SE Michigan see http://www.gssem.org/.

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