from Savvy Graduates
of Women in Leadership Political Series
Mar 25, 2019 03:00PM
By Jennifer J Johnson
Lynette Wendel (left) says she learned about the Women in Leadership Institute by reading about it in the Taylorsville Journal. Here she and WLI colleague Emily Barnes catch up on the latest. (Photo Credit: Jennifer J. Johnson)
By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]
The Women's Leadership Institute (WLI) just announced the class of 43 women across the state who have completed its political development training course. The City of Taylorsville is the proud beneficiary of two such leaders, both currently serving in volunteer positions, and both with eyes on the future.
Among the WLI graduating class are Taylorsville’s own Emily Barnes and Lynette Wendel.
“I am so proud of these strong women and the initiative they have taken to strengthen their leadership skills,” shares Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson. “They already are making tremendous contributions to our Taylorsville community and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts and willingness to serve.”
A nonprofit encouraging women to “make a difference in your community by stepping up and running for office,” the WLI provides women with a six-month, bipartisan “deep-dive” training, covering everything from signature-gathering to social media, from campaign finance to canvassing, from networking to negotiating. Such skills are not only useful for political candidates, but for those fulfilling volunteer roles as public servants or for those just looking to “kick fear” and become more action-oriented.
Emily Barnes – Cultural Diversity Committee member, then chair
Barnes is the newest appointment to what may be the state’s only suburban municipality with a Cultural Diversity Committee. After being appointed in 2018, she has already become the committee head, with the recent exit of former leadership.
Not surprisingly, Barnes is a go-getter. After a friend suggested she participate in the WLI political training course, Barnes went right to it, signing up online. “I was lucky to get a slot,” she surmises.
After applying to WLI, she went to the City of Taylorsville website and saw a post requesting volunteers.
“I just jumped in,” she recalls.
“Jumping in” is who Barnes is. Although plagued by action-killing doubt that stymies most of us, in the early 1990s, Barnes overcame what she says was “low self-esteem” to raise concerns about affordable housing that she had to her legislative reps.
As a single parent with two small children, then living in Utah County, she traveled to the state capitol to provide testimony about the dire need for affordable housing to a Utah House subcommittee.
Getting a taste of the political process tempted the young mother, but she recognized that “it was not the time” for deeper engagement. But the fire had been lit. “This is something I want to do someday,” she recalls thinking.
“Someday” is now for the empty-nester, newly empowered with concepts and connections through the WLI training.
Barnes points out to the Taylorsville Journal that there is only one woman on Taylorsville’s City Council.
“We will see where that goes,” she demurs. For now, her mission is “To support, inspire and empower citizens, of all ages, through educational growth and economic growth.”
Lynette Wendel – Planning Commission change-maker
True story: New Women’s Leadership Institute graduate Lynette Wendel found out about the political leadership training course through the Taylorsville Journal.
“[It has been’ a fantastic opportunity to network with other strong leaders in the region, people interested in becoming decision-makers in communities,” she shares. “I knew for a whole year that I wanted to attend.”
Wendel, in great part, either knows where she wants to go, or has a plan to figure that out. Having served on “many commissions, for many years,” in 2016, the veteran volunteer was appointed to the Taylorsville Planning Commission. Then in 2018, like Barnes’ ascension through her committee, Wendel became the chairperson, heading the commission she says has “a great and specific mission.”
“We have the opportunity to vet and create great opportunities in Taylorsville,” she explains. “We set our priorities for what we want our lives to be like.”
Wendel took the initiative to become as educated as she could be about planning. She attended seminars and workshops, and even started a very unique program – a planning-oriented book club, held in conjunction with other communities, including the city of Herriman.
“The more we can reach out to cities in the valley, the more we can learn from each other,” she observes.
Reaching out is one of Wendel’s leadership strengths. In trying to book an interview with her, there were few availabilities, as Wendel juggled multiple visits up to the Capitol to attend legislative committees, hearings, and other doings with the legislative session.
Having purposefully “stepped back” from her professional capacity as a mediator this past year, to commit herself more to public service, Wendel also serves on the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Board.
As far as the future? “At this time, I am still looking to increase my involvement on different boards and commission on the county and state levels,” she says.
The WLI difference
Barnes feels the most important takeaways from the WLI training is recognizing fear as a possible opponent to action and desire and learning to proactively combat it by developing and leveraging a support system. “The connections made through the WLI network have assisted me in knowing that I am not alone in growing into the community leader I want to be,” she observes.
“It doesn’t surprise me that, uniquely, two of the graduates of this year’s Women’s Leadership Institute are from Taylorsville,” adds Mayor Overson. “It is so important to have more women at the table. Their voices matter. Their perspective is needed. Every day, I am inspired by the amazing women around me, and I am so grateful for the chance to work with them on our Taylorsville team.”