Priya Bhat-Patel will be sworn in tomorrow as a City Council Member for the city of Carlsbad, California. She will be the first person of Indian-American descent and one of the youngest members of City Council in its 66-year history. Priya grew up in Carlsbad and has been an active member of her community for the past 20 years. Remarkably, while she was running for office, she completed her DrPH in Public Health. She is an inspiring leader and will make a valuable contribution to Carlsbad. Here is an excerpt from a recent interview.
What was the most important lesson you learned running for office?
The most important lesson I learned during my run for office was that change is the only constant. Everything is always changing and shifting so you have to be ready for anything.
Your background is impressive. As a former manager, you helped create lasting health initiatives with healthcare agencies and biotech companies across the country. From your work in San Diego County, to the State of California and the United Nations, what made you make the leap into transitioning from the business world to running for City Council of District 3?
I felt that working in the corporate world, I was largely removed from the population. I wanted to serve my community more directly and provide a fresh perspective for the city in order to continue growing and developing. Complacency does not build on a vision, so we must continue to build on what we currently have and ensure that we, as a city, are a visionary leader for our residents and for other cities around the state and the nation.
One of your priorities as City Council is being transparent with your community. In fact, your website invites anyone to email you questions or concerns for you to help solve. What do you think will be your biggest issue to tackle with City Council?
Part of my campaign promise was to ensure that the Brown Act will be followed. This means that the majority of Council members will be prevented from making city-wide policy decisions behind closed doors. Discussing issues in public is imperative for effective communication, building trust and transparency. The residents are my number one priority and should be at the forefront of whatever we do as a Council. For me, being a member of Council is not about pushing forward with a personal agenda. I plan on having a newsletter that will go out explaining why I voted on various issues and why I made those decisions. I think this will help to increase transparency and accountability. Also, scheduling regular town hall meetings will foster increased city communication and collaboration.
If you could give a woman in leadership advice, what would it be?
I always say, don’t wait for anyone to ask you to step up. Step up on your own. As a societal and cultural issue, women have a tendency to think we have to be asked to run for office or fulfill a leadership role. But, we need to realize that if we don’t step up and step into leadership, someone else will. For women to make continued progress toward equity, we need to take those risks and step up.
As a woman and a business leader, what strategies do you find most effective in helping other woman in our communities feel empowered?
I believe that women should support other women and I am starting to see that happen more and more. What I teach my counterparts is to support other women by getting actively involved and to encourage them to step into these leadership roles. We need to lift one another up and not tear each other down.