Mills College Alumna Lori Droste, recently made history as the first openly gay woman in the Berkeley City Council. A graduate of the Masters in Public Policy program in 2011, Droste won Berkeley’s eighth district on Nov. 18 by 16 votes, and now she plans to diversify their city commission and give underrepresented voices a spot at the table.
In this email interview about Droste’s recent win, the new councilmember discusses her experience at Mills and what she hopes to bring to the position.
Q: How do you feel your experience at Mills College helped shape you as an individual? When did you graduate from Mills and what did you study?
A: My Mills experience was invaluable in terms of personal growth. I entered the Mills College Masters in Public Policy (MPP) program after a stint as a public high school teacher. Out of all my academic experiences, Mills was my favorite. The students are exceptionally bright and engaged in their learning. I was inspired every day by my professors and fellow students.
Q: What inspired you to run for the District 8 position in the Berkeley City Council?
A: I can honestly say that I would not have run for office if it wasn’t for my experience at Mills. The MPP program gave me my grounding in policy, and Anne Moses inspired me to run in her Women in Politics class. She consistently reminded us that we are all qualified to serve our communities; however, women often self-select out of the process because they don’t feel they have the appropriate skills or experience. In addition, my wife Carrie was exceptionally supportive. We have two children, 3 and under, so she shouldered a lot during the campaign.
A: I promised my constituents that I would bring a fresh perspective ,and I intend to do just that. I want to focus on economic vitality, community investment, affordability, safe streets and school partnerships. I also want to give a voice to families on council. I am the only one on Council with a young family. I was thrilled when I won by 16 votes. It was meaningful on so many levels because we all worked so hard. I could actually say to my supporters that their individual support won the election for me. I was also honored that my district took a chance on me because I was very much a Berkeley political newcomer. They wanted to embrace policy over politics.
A: In addition to the aforementioned economic vitality, community investment, affordability, safe streets and school partnerships, I want the next generation of Berkeley residents to feel like their community represents them. I want to diversify our city commissions and give underrepresented voices a spot at the table.
Q: How does it feel to be the first openly gay woman in the Berkeley City Council?
A: It feels great! It also feels good to be the only one raising a family, and only the third woman on council. The median age of Council prior to the election was 70.
A: I co-teach a course with Anne Moses so it has come full circle now. I want to get as many women engaged in the political process as possible, but Anne’s the boss, so I’ll do whatever she wants. I owe her because she helped me find the confidence I never knew I had.
Q: Any tips you have for anyone who may want to pursue a job in politics?
A: Join a commission, show up, work hard, have integrity, tell the truth, and respect others.
Droste will be sworn into her position on Dec. 9 when Gordon Wozniak, former District 8 councilmember, officially retires.