While 2016 may see the election of Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the United States, it shouldn’t be overlooked that other women are shattering political glass ceilings as well, and that politics close to home can have an equal or greater impact on the quality of individual lives than national politics do.
Nancy Rotering was first elected in 2011 as Mayor of the City of Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago with a population of about 30,000 people. Rotering had not quite two years of service experience on the City Council when she challenged the two-term incumbent Mayor, and successfully unseated him to become the City’s first female Mayor. Highland Park’s proximity to Chicago, its situation on the North Shore and its attractiveness to professional athletes, Hollywood movie makers and other notable figures, pose interesting challenges to those who govern and lead it. Largely an affluent suburb, the gulf here between rich and poor is daunting. Rotering tackles these challenges armed with the best piece of advice she has ever received: “Walk, don’t run. Calmness backed by defined analysis inspires confidence.”
Rotering saw an opportunity for meaningful change in her City’s government—she’s a home-grown girl and graduate of Highland Park High School—and had confidence in herself to be the catalyst. Though she was relatively new to the highest political body in the City, she has strong educational and experience credentials: a JD from the University of Chicago Law School, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BA in Economics from Stanford are coupled with work experience in the private and public sectors, as well as on the City of Highland Park’s Environmental Commission and Planning Commission. These past accomplishments all serve her well in her role as the City’s Chief Executive Officer.
Her stated goals are to “restore trust and stability,” to articulate an “attainable plan for a future of fiscal sustainability and investment in our community” and to meet the “needs of the underserved.” From a more global perspective she is interested in advocacy for causes that ensure safety and education for girls and women. Her interests are not limited to the boundaries of her city; in 2016 she ran for the U.S. Congress in Illinois’ 10th District. Though defeated in the primary, it seems likely that she will be a force to be reckoned with in future political contests with higher profiles. Her current term as Mayor extends to 2019.
In the meantime, from her trove of experience she offers example and advice to women inclined to follow in business and/or political realms where women have traditionally feared to tread—or perhaps others have feared to let them tread. At the personal level, she expresses greatest pride in her four sons. She unplugs at least once a day, to exercise, spend time with family and friends or simply watch TV. “The result,” she says, “is clearer thinking and more authentic connections with the people in my life: family, friends, co-workers and constituents.” As do many accomplished leaders, she recommends Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath as good reading that “encourages everyone to think outside the box and pursue difficult challenges.” She looks to the example and advice of those who have mentored her, particularly a grandmother who encouraged her to strive to achieve great things while having a good time along the way. “Life,” she likes to quote, “is either a good time or a good story.”
Whitney Johnson is the author of the critically-acclaimed Disrupt Yourself, host of a podcast by the same name, and a co-founder with Christina Vuleta, of Forty Women Over 40 to Watch.
This post originally published at Forbes