Q&A with City Council Candidate Jen Long

Long is one of six candidates vying for three seats on the City Council. She has served on City Council since February of this year when she was appointed to fill a vacated council seat. This is her first time running for public office.

What is your age and how long have you lived in Piedmont?

I am 51 years old and we have lived in Piedmont for over three years. Prior to moving here, we lived ½ mile away in Oakland. My husband and I met in law school and we have two boys. My oldest is a freshman in college and my youngest is a sophomore in high school. While raising our boys nearby, we spent a great deal of time in Piedmont as a result of our children’s participation on Piedmont’s sports teams. My husband even coached some of the Piedmont MVP basketball teams that our sons played on.

We moved here when we decided to find our forever home. We were attracted to the cohesive community, the beautiful homes, the safety of the neighborhood and felt like investing in this community would not only be a smart financial move, but a great place for our kids to live, interact and socialize with peers during their teenage years and a place where we could age comfortably.

What you do for work, either in or out of your home?

I have worked as an attorney and life coach, and have been the primary caregiver for our two boys.

Have you worked or volunteered in the Piedmont community (or elsewhere) previously? If so, in what capacity(ies)?

I have held several volunteer positions in Piedmont. I was the campaign manager for Veronica Anderson Thigpen, a current school board member. I was the Co-President of the Piedmont Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee (PADC), and a steering member of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign (PREC).  

Prior to my volunteer activities in Piedmont, I held numerous volunteer positions at my childrens’ schools, including grade and division lead, fundraiser co-chair, and room parent.

What inspires you to run for office?

I am running because of my love for the Piedmont community, my colleagues, and city employees. Many of the people I have had the opportunity to work with as a current council member have encouraged me to continue to serve, and I am humbled to be part of a leadership team that works to make the best choices for the betterment of all Piedmonters.  

As a concerned community member, I am running to bring forth solutions, to work on issues that are important such as our infrastructure projects, the housing plan, climate and issues related to inclusion. I also believe that as more and more of the issues confronting cities become regional (homelessness, crime, the environment), it will be essential for Piedmont to be in partnership with its neighbors to further grow our community while simultaneously maintaining its unique character and charm.

What are your qualifications to be on the City Council? Any special skills or experience the voters should know about?

I am an invested member of the Piedmont community. As an engaged, active, concerned member of this community, I want the best for all residents and for Piedmont to remain a model community. My legal training and experience in the law and conducting corporate investigations has taught me to spot issues, ask relevant questions, and pay attention to the critical details that are often overlooked. I am also very good at quickly learning and assimilating information.  

In my work as a life coach, I question assumptions and I prioritize understanding people and their strengths before examining challenges. 
These skills and my life experience have uniquely prepared me to collaborate with others by focusing on their strengths; learn about issues before the council and make decisions; understand issues of race and class, and integrate information from different points of view.

What do you see as the most challenging issues currently facing the city?

Some of the key issues that need to be tackled include the following:

  • Building municipal capacity for inclusion
  • Replacing our current City Administrator
  • Bring our community pool project to completion
  • Determining the scope and cost of our Civic Center infrastructure needs
  • Refining our housing plan such that it will be approved by the state
  • Maintain the excellence of our day-to-day services
  • Making certain that our financial decisions are referent to both short-term and long-term goals. 
  • Empowering our residents to make more sustainable choices that work for them economically.
What do you see as strengths of the Piedmont community?

Piedmont thrives because of the time, talent and treasure of its community members. Piedmonters consistently create events that bring this community together including Harvest Festival, Food Fest, and Oktoberfest.  

As the city has worked over the last year and half on the development of a housing plan, many Piedmonters who work in housing development have leaned in and shared their expertise with staff to offer their perspectives on how best to comply with the state mandate.

Our community also steps up to fund projects that are meaningful, such as our recent fundraising effort for the pool.  

Many Piedmonters also use their resources to do great work outside of Piedmont, and so we are fortunate to have a community that is engaged and generous.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priorities include bringing our infrastructure projects in on time and within budget, meeting our state mandate, continuing to build an inclusive community and creating more opportunities for community engagement.

Do you see yourself being especially involved in any particular city issue or program, whether or not it’s your top priority?

I will work on creating a community engagement program that exists outside of chambers. With so many issues being considered, it is important that community members have opportunities to learn about, comment on and contribute to the solutions being developed without being limited to the framework of a public meeting. Inclusion requires community engagement.

Talk about any leadership roles you’ve held and what you learned from them.

From my leadership roles, I have learned that being authentic is critical. As a leader you will not always get things right, but it is important to be able to course correct. Leadership is about connecting with others, and creating a framework for others to be able to plug into.  

Our recent Council vote to power the pool using electricity is an example of how important leadership is and being able to take calculated risks to move a community goal forward. Piedmont will be one of the first communities to use this technology in the community pool setting. Our council is working hard to make sure that this decision achieves our climate action goals and fiscal constraints.

Share an example of your decision-making style.

I would like to share how I decided to run for office. Being on council affords certain opportunities, and it also has limits. One of the first questions I needed to ask myself was whether being a member of council would put me in the best position to achieve goals on behalf of the Piedmont community. 

In order to answer that question, I had to not only use my own experience on council, but speak to many former community leaders to hear their perspectives on how being part of the school board or council allowed them to achieve the community’s goals. These conversations were instrumental in helping me determine whether running would be the right step for me to serve Piedmont in the best possible manner.

What project have you worked on that you are especially proud of?

For a coaching engagement, I worked with an organization that had stumbled in its attempts to address equity in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. When they hired me, I was able to step in, ask the right questions, and help them shift gears and get back on track. What happened as a result of my work with them is that it allowed them to correct their course, and lead in this work.

I’m especially proud of the productive partnership I was able to establish with my client’s leadership team, and I’m gratified that I was able to support the organization in its effort to more deeply engage in social justice.

City Council members must navigate a wide range of community opinions and demands. How will you handle those pressures?

Most Council decisions need to be made within certain limitations that take into consideration such things as budgetary constraints, legal requirements or other factors. Community input is critical to understanding what shared values are most important when dealing with any given topic. Therefore, when I am deciding how I will vote on a matter I take into consideration all of the opinions I have heard, and I overlay them with whatever framework is applicable. In the end, I always seek to incorporate as much community input as possible while working within any applicable confines. 

In a role that requires collaboration at every level, I believe that my strong desire for everyone to succeed allows me to work until solutions can be found that benefit everyone. While I understand that every problem will not have a solution that we can all agree on, I will work to create a process that everyone can believe in and trust.

What should the city’s priorities be when it comes to upgrading city infrastructure?

Step one in determining how we should prioritize the city’s infrastructure projects is to determine the scope of work needed. Once an assessment of scope is completed, the city can decide how to proceed and fund the necessary work.

Piedmont is required by the state to meet new affordable housing goals. What is your view on the approach the city has taken so far to comply with the law?

The City is currently working diligently to ensure that Piedmont will be able to maintain local control over the future of our beloved city. Currently, Piedmont has no specific plans to build housing and is under no obligation to pay for housing development.  

However, the City is mandated by state law to create a plan which identifies potential sites upon which housing might be built. It is essential to have as many community members as possible weighing in on how best to create housing in our community. The city is working to ensure that housing development in Piedmont is careful and thorough and will enhance our safe, beautiful neighborhoods, and ensure continued strong property values.

What would you do to promote diversity in Piedmont, including among City staff?

Diversity is a word that has different meanings for Piedmont. It is important for us to have a common understanding so that we can move forward in creating the welcoming and inviting community we desire to be. As a current council member, I emphasize the need to ensure that our candidate hiring pools are as diverse as possible. The best candidate will always prevail, and part of what bringing together a diverse pool of candidates does is illuminate for the hiring committee that different experiences and backgrounds bring different strengths.  

In addition to hiring practices, residents play a huge role in creating a community where people from diverse backgrounds feel respected and valued.  

I have found our community to be ready, willing and able to consider, discuss and work through some of these complexities.

Piedmont has recently received an award for its sustainability accomplishments and goals. What would you do to further Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan?

Empowering our residents to electrify their homes, use green transportation, and make sustainable choices for their gardens is critically important to achieving the City’s climate goals. Helping residents better understand our reach codes, creating incentives for making green choices, simplifying the processes for making green choices and helping community members benefit economically from these choices are all goals I have related to implementing our Climate Action Plan.

What do you think about current recreational opportunities in Piedmont, and do you have other ideas for adding, subtracting or changing programs?

There are many recreational opportunities in our community, and I would like to give our residents more access to pickleball, add chess and backgammon tables to our parks, and senior programming. Since our community needs span such a wide age range, I would like to increase opportunities for multi-generational activities. Bringing our community pool to fruition will bring some of these further programming opportunities to life.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with voters about your candidacy?

I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve, and should I be fortunate enough to be elected, I will continue to work to bring our community together for the betterment of us all. 

Do you have a website and email to share with voters? If so, please add below.

https://www.jenlongforpiedmont.com | JenLongforPiedmont@gmail.com

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