Real Women Run podcast: Southern Utah mayors talk shop, rewards and challenges

Nina Barnes speaking at the Real Women Run Southern Utah training in St. George, Utah, Dec. 1, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Real Women Run, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — On Feb. 14, Real Women Run launched its official podcast, highlighting the experiences and stories of women who serve as elected officials, the challenges they face and the unique perspectives women bring to the table.

In a recent episode, hosts Nina Barnes and Yándary Chatwin spoke with former Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards and Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop on maintaining a work-life balance, serving their communities and why they believe more women should run for office.

Chatwin said the interviews were fun and eye-opening and that she hopes their stories will help women overcome barriers to candidacy. She wants women to know they are not alone.

“They get really vulnerable. They talk to us about the concerns they had, the fears they had, the things that kept them from just going for it,” she said. “What that does, I think, is normalizes the fact that it’s OK to have those doubts.”

On the podcast, Wilson-Edwards said she struggled to be taken seriously.

In this file photo, Cedar City Council member Scott Phillips and former Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards (with current Mayor Garth Green in the background) attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly completed Coal Creek Bridge, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I’ve been to events with my mother and they said, ‘we have a new female mayor!’ And, I had individuals push me out of the way to shake my mother’s hand,” she said.

Both Mayor Jessop and Wilson-Edwards spoke on the importance of bringing people together and learning from others.

“It’s all about people. It’s about the relationships you establish. It’s how workable you are,” Jessop said. “You can seriously listen to with an empathetic ear and understand where they’re coming from.”

Southern Utah mayors on running and serving

“It is not always easy and glamorous. But, you just have to remember the big picture of why you want to get in there, why you want to serve, why you want to make a difference in your community,” Wilson-Edwards told St. George News.

Wilson-Edwards was Cedar City’s first female mayor and the youngest mayor in Utah. She spoke on women’s unique perspectives and why she believes it is essential that women network and have access to mentors.

“Men more than women tend to have some of those built-in networks, and they really encourage each other. And [networking] also provides a good avenue and forum for women – even if it’s not necessarily running for office,” she said.

However, she noted that more women running for office and getting involved in the process will make doing so seem less “taboo.”

“It’s one of those situations where, as more people continue to get involved and more women continue to get involved, it almost will make it easier for the next generation and the next women to run,” she said.

“I think everyone with a different background brings something different,” Wilson-Edwards added. “Women have different perspectives, have different ways of looking at issues and so, I think the more diverse with age, with gender, all of that, the better overall policy and outcomes you’ll end up with.”

Wilson-Edwards said the most rewarding aspects of serving as Cedar City’s mayor were engaging with the community and working with young people.

In this file photo, Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop speaks at the Real Women Run Southern Utah training in St. George, Utah, Dec. 1, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

“I would go into classrooms and the kids would say, ‘you don’t look like what we see on TV. Does this mean I could do something like this?’” She said. “And just being there and showing everyone that they have a place at the table.”

Jessop is the first female mayor of Hildale and the first to not be endorsed by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She shared her advice for women thinking of running with St. George News.

“My honest advice is, do it!”

Jessop is grateful to live in a state that embraces women and said that her time in office has inspired her to learn more.

“What I was surrounded with was good mentors. And, of course, now I’ve gone back to college! I’m going back to school now,” she said. “This whole life experience has pushed me to go get a higher education.”

She also spoke on the challenge of attending college, raising a family and serving her community.

“I had to really take a look at the balance of it all. Take some things off my schedule that might not have been as important and make sure that the important things are covered first,” she explained.

For Jessop, collaboration and hard work are a big part of why she loves her job, she said, because she’s able to see the results of her efforts.

“Even the small accomplishments just make you so happy because you know what it took to get there. You know it took a lot of collaboration and time and figuring things out,” she said. “It’s just so much work, it’s rewarding to see the changes come about.”

Real Women Run

Real Women Run, a collaborative, nonpartisan group was founded in 2011. Chatwin told St. George News that they have historically offered multiple trainings per year, where women serving as elected officials share their stories and answer questions.

“We work to involve more Utah women in the political process, whether it’s by running for office or joining a local border commission – We’re here to get more women involved,” Chatwin said.

Jessop recommends that women seeking office reach out to Real Women Run for advice and training.

“I do highly recommend working with Real Women Run and being educated and trained by them because they’re a great support system,” she said. “And you get to know what’s available and what’s out there, what you can participate in and what can help you be a leader.”

Because of the pandemic, she said, they had to “press pause” on offering in-person training, but she hopes the podcast will help them reach women in remote or rural areas and women who are less likely to attend their regular events.

The co-hosts of the Real Women Run Podcast, Yándary Chatwin (left) and Nina Barnes (right) pose for a selfie, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Yándary Chatwin

“A lot of the women who come to our training typically have already thought about running for office or they’re currently declared as a candidate for office,” she explained. “The podcast, we’re hoping, will reach women who aren’t quite there yet.”

“Women bring something very different to the table. And that’s important – different voices. And, to someone who might feel like she doesn’t have enough experience: You probably do,” Chatwin added.

What’s next?

For the podcast, Chatwin and Barnes spoke to 11 different women across Utah, with a focus on municipal and county government. For future episodes, Chatwin said they would be interested in working with women at all levels of government.

Going forward, Real Women Run hopes to hold more in-person training and to launch a series of in-demand training this summer.

“We’ve partnered with women who have run for office themselves, women who have worked on campaigns, who are experts in these areas, and we will be launching a series of prerecorded training that a candidate can have access to any time,” Chatwin said.

While the podcast and some in-person training are offered free of cost, the in-demand series will be available as a subscription. However, Chatwin said they offer discounts for students and sometimes provide scholarships.

To learn more about scholarship opportunities, email them.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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