A conversation with City Councilor Sally Russell

How are kids today different than when you were a kid?

The intense scheduling, in school, sports and otherwise, leaves very little independence and unstructured time.  This limits children’s ability to learn how to make small decisions on their own; they don’t learn how to grow from making small choices and learning from their small failures.

I grew up exploring the natural areas all around my home, climbing trees, chasing baby lambs, falling off logs, playing softball and reading lots of books… pretty unstructured day to day and very creative. As kids, had to decide together what we wanted to do every day and then make it happen.

Do you have a role model?

My mother and father were very different role models, and both were important.  My mother was a driving force and ultimately her curiosity, vision and unwavering determination resulted in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, something future generations will enjoy forever.  However, she wasn’t always paying attention to what her children needed.

On the other hand, my dad was always available and present, and always forgiving. Besides, he was an absent minded professor with a wickedly creative humor, who wrote us stories and made sure we knew we were loved. So the blended role model is something I certainly aspire to.

What did you learn from your parents about parenting?

The value of leading by example. Even though there were many things I didn’t want to do, or simply wasn’t interested in as a child, much of what I saw and experienced as a child through my parents influenced how I formed my values and make decisions today.

They insisted on integrity and honesty. Even if I sometimes question whether it is serving me in the moment, I never have to look back and remember how to cover a lie or half truth; just tell the truth, stand by what I believe, and bravely take whatever criticism comes my way.

How is holding office like being a parent?

Communication and finding common understanding can be a huge hurdle between a parent and child.  With my daughters, I try my best to listen and ask questions.  Even so, sometimes we all get frustrated and cranky!

The same is true between my colleagues and with the public. We all work from such varied backgrounds and value sets. The more I work in elected office, the more I think that finding a common ground of understanding to work from is THE next breakthrough in governing. Otherwise, we just entrench in what we know, and ignore the others…  not a good recipe for good policy, as our country has been experiencing intensely recently.

If parents were to, “ask not what the City can do for you but what you can do for the City” what would that be?

It’s true, often people expect the City to be responsible for things that actually could be accomplished faster and more effectively if they themselves would work to find a way to resolve their issue or complaint.   It IS like leaning on your parent to solve a feud with your best friend instead of having the courage to stand face to face and resolve it yourself.
And more often, that’s how to get a better, much more satisfying lasting outcome anyway!

What do you hope your children learned from you?

Taking responsibility for the greater world around you – friends, community, planet. A strong work ethic – if you do the work to educate and inform yourself before making a decision or taking a stand, you are more likely to understand the impacts of your actions and/or words, which serves you and others in unlimited ways.

I asked my daughters what they learned from me as a mom?” Isabelle’s answer: “To be thorough in my work, napping and going to bed early is fantastic, and just
accepting frustration and using it to fuel my work.”

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