Daily Times-Call (Longmont, CO)
Posted on October 30, 2002
By Pierrette J. Shields
LONGMONT - Some things simply cross cultural boundaries. For both a delegation of female Russian officials and a group of their American counterparts, juggling professional responsibilities with family life and learning the finer points of interaction with male colleagues is always an adventure.
The five-woman Russian delegation visited Tuesday with former Longmont Mayor Leona Stocker, the Republican candidate for House District 11; St. Vrain Valley Board of Education member Tammy Pilkington; Longmont Mayor Julia Pirnack; and Jane Norton, Republican lieutenant governor candidate, to compare notes on women in leadership positions in the different government structures.
The Longmont Rotary is hosting the Russians' visit to Longmont, which is funded through the Library of Congress via the Open World Program. The groups shared experiences and compared notes in a crossfire conversation for more than an hour. Pirnack was the first to talk about her decision to venture into public service.
"I believe in people, and I believe in our Democratic process, and I want people in Longmont to become more involved with their communities," she said.
The Russian officials, each of whom was appointed to office, were curious about the election process, too - especially when it came to running against men.
"In my city, the mayor is a woman, but before that, she is a school teacher," said Margarita Urikh, head of the Culture Department for the city of Lysva. "The reason they didn't re-elect her ... is she couldn't find a good way to deal with the men."
Pirnack said that working with the all-male Longmont City Council is a matter of mutual respect.
"I don't believe in making things personal. They all have the best interests of the city at heart," Pirnack said. "I listen to them, and I expect them to listen to me."
The Russian group, which included public relations and government officials, also discussed balancing personal and professional responsibilities. Norton said that because her children are grown and her husband was involved in politics, it is easier for her than for some women in politics. Stoecker said women can have and do anything in the course of their lives, but that sometimes the juggling act isn't easy.
The Russian delegates agreed, and most said supportive spouses make their high-level government jobs easier to handle in the scope of their lives. "Luckily, we're very good together. ... He understands, and he supports me very well," Urikh said of her husband.
Dick Richards, chairman of the Rotary in Russian Committee, said the meeting of the American and Russian leaders was scheduled to fit the program's primary purpose, a focus on emerging female leadership in Russian government.
The group is scheduled to remain in Longmont through the weekend with host families and will continue visiting Longmont government and community facilities.
© 2002, The Daily Times-Call. Used with permission.
[Reprinted with Permission]