Leadership is a never ending class on making tough decisions. I remember the first time I was in a workplace leadership role. I managed a Beauty Supply Store/Salon in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood. We were all young women, we were friends. When the store was slow we would do each other’s make up. We were all girly girls and loved testing the products. We would have dinner parties together outside of work. So I truly hated having to reprimand staff. It sucked having to cut a shift or lay someone off because they weren’t doing a good job. Or to have to make the choice to promote one friend over another because one was more responsible.
Years later I was a General Manager for a Real Estate company in Newark. The mortgage crisis hit and I had a direct role in laying off the majority of our staff. I big part of the revenue was from the mortgage banking division and all of the profit from the loan business dried up very quickly. The layoffs were the only way the company was able to survive. I will never forget those one on one meetings in my office. People who’d worked there for years, mothers and fathers. I did what I could to help them get another job. I’ve written dozens of raving employee reference letters for past employees.
I don’t regret those decisions. To be a leader is to be the one person willing and able to make tough decisions.
Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci is a leader. I went to one of her coffees, where she meets with citizens, as part of her campaign for re-election. It should be noted though, that Mayor Carol holds those coffee’s all year – not just during election time. After our interview, you can listen here, I think Mayor Carol can’t help but be a leader. She is uniquely suited for her position. It can’t be easy trying to take into account the opinions of an entire city.
She wants everyone’s voice to be heard. She’s pretty passionate when it comes to why it is important for everyone to get involved in our city government and programs.
“Take a council meeting for example, if there is an issue that people are really passionate about … those that care show up. But you also have the majority of the people who stay home. As an elected official you can’t just play to the audience… you have to make a decision based on the community wide, and what you think the community wants. Not just because of the 50 people standing in front of you yelling. And that’s why the community involvement is so important. To pick up the phone or the computer and send an email to your elected officials and let them know what you are thinking about because otherwise, if they don’t have a gage of how the community feels, then the 50 people that are screaming in the front may have things done their way, to the detriment of the greater amount of the people.” ~Carol Dutra-Vernaci
When I asked where her deep-seated drive for leadership comes from she says,
“Being involved and knowing how good it feels when you are able to help somebody. People come to you and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got problem.’ So you start helping and it just grows from there.” ~Mayor Carol
I appreciated her opening up about her greatest challenges, some of which we can all relate too. Like trying to find the best work-life balance. Some problems only the toughest people are capable of taking on. It’s a part of the consequences and the triumphs of leadership. Our show is called Union City Advice Givers for a reason and Mayor Dutra-Vernaci delivers with some great advice.