Meet Debbie Ruddock, Mayor of Half Moon Bay, CA

Q: What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue a career in politics?
DR: The first thing people wanted to know when I campaigned for office was, “Why are you running?” You need to have an authentic answer. What is your passion? What do you care about? What value can you add to your community? For me, the driver was my passion for protecting our coastal environment. My journalism and public relations background provided a strong foundation for campaigns. For someone else the motivation might be affordable housing or quality education. Bottom line: Know yourself, know where you want to go, then develop a network of folks who can help you get there.

Q: What is one skill you believe that women should have to facilitate a successful career in politics?
DR: Allow me two skills. First, listening. You need to be able to connect with people on issues that are important to them. Second, learning to forgive. Someone who is your opponent today is potentially your ally tomorrow.

Q: When will women in politics become the norm?
DR: Nothing is handed to us. We really do have to be masters of our destiny, pushing back and not taking “No” for an answer. More importantly we have to do this together. Only joint effort will build up and sustain the resources and force needed to overcome the status quo. Fortunately, we have more and more role models, and we can rejoice in the remarkable number of women now seeking office nationwide in a wave of resistance to federal policies and workplace abuses.

Q: Why do you think women remain underrepresented in business and politics?
DR: The winner-takes-all hierarchies dominating our corporate and political life require one to understand power – what it is, how to get it, and how to keep it. Some of us are comfortable with power, and maybe like Wonder Woman occasionally succeed on our own steam and against all odds to reach the pantheon. But many of us are conflicted about or uncomfortable with wielding power. Our parents, schools, and churches had different ideas about feminine comportment, and we struggle to recognize and accept our own potential. If we want to succeed, we often don’t know where to start. Wonder Woman knew she could magnify and leverage her own power by joining with the Justice League, whose members possessed different but complementary powers. She networked! Women need to network and pool resources, both formally and informally, to build and support success in business and in politics. A good example of a formal political network organization is Emerge California, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.

Q: While there is no clear consensus, about four-in-ten say that women who run for office are held to higher standards than men and need to do more to prove themselves. What needs to happen to change this?
DR: Confidence. We all, women and men, are best served when focused on being our best selves and staying true to our vision and mission. Trust your gut.

Q: What has been your greatest achievement?
DR: Learning that it’s not the destination, but the journey.

Q: If there's one wish you could be granted to change the way Congress works ... what would that be?
DR: Stop the ideological bickering. People want you to solve their problems, even if it means compromising in some areas.

Q: How do you rate the Government’s performance?
DR: My standard for success is whether or not the government is working to solve the problems they were charged with solving. The current Congress and the President get an F. California’s governor and legislature fare much better in my estimation. I am proud to be a Californian today.

Q: If you had the power, what one Government policy would you reverse?
DR: The Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Congress gave the President the authority to take military action against any county or person connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, at any time, without additional congressional approval. Absent a role for Congress, Americans don’t have a say in matters of war.

Q: Why should women-business owners support you?
DR: Business success sometimes depends on engaging the political process. I am experienced with this process and can and will help them negotiate it. I also have business experience, having worked at Hewlett-Packard for a time when Bill and Dave reigned, and at other Silicon Valley firms. But I also think they should support me because II believe we’re a more powerful force when we support one another. Period. The institutional and cultural barriers to the advancement of women are formidable, and we can only overcome them with sustained, joint effort whether we share professional interests or not.

Five Things About Debbie Ruddock

1. If you could meet anyone famous past or present … who would it be and why?
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland. She was the lone holdout in a 420-1 House vote to pass AUMF. She is a woman of extraordinary courage who bucked – and bucks – the system for what she believes in.

2. Can you tell us one of your passions in life?
Politics. I love the purpose and enjoy the sport of it as well.

3. How do you deal with stress?
Long walks, lots of jazz music, and yoga stretches.

4. It there a place you always dreamed of visiting?
Israel. I’m attracted by the history, the conflict, and I have dreams about it.

5. What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
1. Don’t forget to say thank you.
2. A quote from H. L. Mencken: For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

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