From A Leader's Perspective: A Virtual Forum with Local Councilwomen

By Luke Danko

The Norwalk Community College (NCC) Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a webinar March 25 via WebEx titled “From a Leader’s Perspective.” The meeting’s 12 participants consisted of students, faculty and three Norwalk city council members.

The council members, Darlene Young of District B, Diana Revolus of District B and Lisa Shanahan of District E were invited to converse with the NCC community in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Alexandra Kleinman, meeting moderator and SGA senator, stated, “In honor of women’s history month, student government organized this event so that NCC students could engage in meaningful conversation with strong female leaders in the community.”

The meeting began with introductions by the three council members. Shanahan started by referring to her upbringing and education during the 1960’s to her graduation from law school in 1984. Shanahan said, “When I got to Dartmouth College, women were not welcome,” in regard to her undergraduate institution.

Shanahan later stated that her daughter attended Dartmouth College, and spoke about the changes to the school between her time of attending and her daughter’s. “Dartmouth is doing a whole lot better,” said Shanahan. Fifty percent of the people who are at Dartmouth are women, according to Shanahan.

The next council member, Revolus, spoke about her journey to becoming a council member. “I wasn’t expecting to be a councilwoman, but I was expecting to be a force for change in my community,” said Revolus. She continued to share her background in the medical field and personal experience with chronic ailment.

“It made me assess things differently,” said Revolus. “It also made me assess how I look at people’s health.” Revolus said that she is an activist and finds it sometimes difficult to play the role of both activist and politician. According to Revolus, her mission is to improve not the development of one group, but overall as a community. Young, who has worked for the City of Norwalk for 24 years, grew up on the west side of Stamford and has held a variety of local government positions.

Young said “I got the bug for social services and to help people…” “I want to help young people.” Young continued to say that she went to college, but left prior to graduation and begun six years of working for the Financial Accounting Standards Board in Norwalk. Young said that it was a “great opportunity.”

During this time, Young participated in a tree-lighting event in west Stamford that she attributes her current position to. Referring to the event, Young said it was “…one of the most impactful events and really got me started on where I am today.” The event, which had a duration of just under one hour and thirty minutes, was closed with a Q&A for students to discuss with the visiting council members.

All three council members were asked to briefly describe what it means to be a leader. “I particularly have a disdain for the word leader,” said Revolus. “I put myself in the predicament to be of servitude.” She continued to say that she had been taught that the role of being a leader is to be of servitude.

Shanahan described leadership as a “conduit,” saying “My view of being a leader is much more fluid than I would have otherwise thought.” “It’s really a give and take.” She continued to say that as a leader she communicates with her district by listening to their issues while sharing her knowledge of city government.

“We were elected to lead,” said Young. “It’s not just in our direction, it’s what the folks tell us, what our constituents tell us.” She continued to say that making “substantive change that people want” is leadership.

This event was one of NCC’s range of virtual web meetings offered to students and faculty members. To learn more about NCC’s virtual events, students and faculty can contact the school or await invitations sent via school email.

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