Julie Pignataro, Candidate for City Council District 2 in Fort Collins, Colorado

Julie Headshot for City Website.jpg

Which office are you running for and where?
City Council District 2 in Fort Collins, Colorado

When is your election day?
April 2, 2019

Why did you decide to run for public office? Did someone encourage or inspire you? If so, who?
Like many women, I have been incredibly inspired in the last couple of years by the grassroots surge to change the political landscape. I see the question many people are asking instead of "why me" has pivoted to "why NOT me?" when it comes to serving in our government at the various levels. My journey began by diving headfirst and learning as much as I could about local politics in Fort Collins, Colorado. I met with current and past City Council Members, applied and was accepted into a class called City Works 101 that explores the different departments in our City, became a member of our Citizens Review Board, and was accepted into the Emerge Colorado class of 2018.

So many people have been encouraging but the three that immediately come to mind are Erin Hottenstein who started Colorado 50/50 and increased my network ten-fold, Kristin Stephens our current Fort Collins City Councilmember in District 4, and my dad, Phil Pignataro who is always just a phone call away.

What did you do before you decided to run? Where did you go to school? Tell us a little about your resume.
I am in IT Program Manager at the USDA where I put the skills to work that I plan to bring to office: big picture/systems thinking; collaboration, and intelligent decision making. I have an undergraduate degree in English from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. I have been a community volunteer my entire life with multiple non-profit organizations that promote opportunities for people in need, animal welfare, environmental preservation, and women’s rights.

I have a passion for learning and once I decided to run, I took the Fort Collins City Works 101 class, was accepted into and am currently in the Water Literate Leaders of Northern Colorado 2018-19 class, and met with and learned from dozens of community leaders. To prepare for a political run, I trained with the Emerge Colorado cohort of 2018 as well as took a one-day Vote Run Lead training.   

What are your top 3 key initiatives/policies?
I will make sure that our growth in Fort Collins is smart and purposeful.

I will push for environmentally sound policies to deal with climate change.

I will ensure that when we look to deal with our demanding transportation needs, it is done with an eye towards new technologies and social equality.

Tell us about a day in the life of your campaign or tell us your favorite story from the campaign trail.
Things have been pretty crazy since announcing my candidacy in early December 2018. Organization and planning have been key to making sure that I am balancing my campaign, my health, my family, and my work. I typically get up before anyone else in the house to have some “me” time, enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up on news before the household wakes. I take my son to school and then head to the office, breaking from work at lunch to do campaign duties over the lunch hour. When I get home, I will typically answer emails and fundraise for an hour or so before enjoying dinner with my son and husband – the latter has picked up more of the shopping, cooking, and pet duties which has been amazing.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a candidate? Are there challenges you face that are unique to you as a woman candidate?
Personally, I have found the competition in my district not necessarily formidable, but definitely distracting. I have three opponents, none of whom have what I consider the qualities I would want in my elected leaders. They all seem like great people with good hearts, which leads to a challenge I face where I need to look at my capacity for empathy as a strength instead of a weakness.

There were countless times in the past few years where the injustices in our world – many of which are currently being acted out by our own government – bring me to tears, and I am afraid that one of these days in an interview or candidate forum, I will break down. Luckily topics such as war, famine, genocide, and oppression of women don’t enter into our municipal government often, if at all. I don’t mean to say this flippantly, but what I am getting at is that I need to harness my capacity to lead with my heart as well as my head.

What can women do to help you? 
The support of women – emotionally, experientially, and monetarily – has been and will continue to be the most important help with my campaign. It has been almost exclusively women who have stepped up to volunteer and I think it is because we know what is at stake if we don’t get more women elected. I have valued speaking with other women who have in the past or are currently in elected office. And unfortunately, with the state of politics, it takes money to get my name out there and spread the word about my candidacy.

Share a fun fact or two with us!
My husband and I are science fiction nuts – all of our pets are named after Star Wars characters (Finn, Maz, Owen, and Beru) and my husband and I had serious conversations about naming our son something from the series as well. Luckily for him, though, our tree-hugging nature prevailed and he is named after the Linden tree.

Any additional thoughts?
Thank you for your organization! Yours is one of those grassroots groups I refer to in my answer to the first question of this form and I am excited to not only potentially win your support but become a contributing member.