‘Challenge the Status Quo’
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart has challenged the status quo as a female politician and the youngest mayor in Connecticut since she winning election four years ago at age 26.
Stewart became interested in politics after working for former Connecticut Congresswoman Nancy Johnson and former Governor M. Jodi Rell.
“It was an incredible experience to have such positive female role models in my life. But it also taught me a very important life lesson, and that was how to lose, and how to lose gracefully,” Stewart said about Johnson’s 2006 campaign loss.
“I was blessed to have two positive role models in the world of politics that are very, very rare to find, unfortunately.
“It’s something that you don’t see too often—women giving other women an opportunity.”
Throughout her four years in office, Stewart has faced criticisms—from her governing style to her policy decisions.
“One of the most difficult things I’ve had to overcome is the fact that ‘she’s so young, she must be dumb,'” said Stewart.
“You challenge the status quo, you do things a little differently than they’ve always been done.
“It’s difficult to bring about change without controversy. It is very difficult often times to work twice, if not three times, as hard to prove yourself to the public because of what you look like.”
Despite her critics, Stewart says she isn’t afraid to admit she needs to rely on others to help make difficult decisions.
“You have to admit and understand and be okay with the fact that you’re not always the smartest person in the room,” she said.
“I would encourage all of you to be okay with relying on others for their wisdom, expertise, and advice. It in turn will make you a much better leader.
“I learned very quickly how to adapt. It’s a very frustrating reality, but you can’t let it bring you down.”
Stewart hopes her example of passion and perseverance will inspire young women in her community to seek positions of power in politics, government, and business.
“You have to find your inner mojo,” she said.
“I always talk about that fire in your belly. What gives you that? Go after that.”
This article originally on the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s website here.