She Said, She Said


Side-by-side interviews with the youngest woman

elected to Austin's City Council, Ellen Troxclair

AND her District Coordinator Catherine Van Arnam.


Not very long after launching Pink Granite, I received a lovely note from Catherine Van Arnam who serves as District Coordinator for Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair. Catherine shared with me how much she admired her boss and that I "had" to interview Troxclair. I was staggered that Catherine would see Pink Granite as worthy of the Council Member's timebut also that she wasn't offering up her own perspective in addition to that of her boss. 

Lucky for me, after a couple of coordinating e-mails, Catherine and Council Member Troxclair BOTH agreed to be featured, which I think makes for an interesting side-by-side interview of two very accomplished women in the world of politics - one who happens to professionally support the other in her work representing Austin's 8th Council District. My immense thanks to Council Member Troxclair and Catherine both for taking time away from their work for this Q & A. 

 
  Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair

Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair

Where do you work, what is your title and what does your job actually entail? 

ET: In 2014, I was elected to Austin City Council. I represent District 8, which covers Southwest Austin. Currently, I am the youngest woman to ever be elected to the Austin City Council. In addition to my role at City Hall,  I manage a residential real estate business and am a founding partner of Luxe Property Group.

How long have you been performing this work/been in office?

ET: I was elected in 2014, was sworn in in January of 2015, and will serve a 4 year term. I will be up for re-election in November of 2018.

Where are you from?

ET: My family moved around a bit as a kid, but I mainly claim Highland Village, a suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth as my home before Austin.

 

 

  Troxclair's PT District Coordinator Catherine Van Arnam

Troxclair's PT District Coordinator Catherine Van Arnam

Where do you work, what is your title and what does your job actually entail?

CVA: I’m honored to work for the past two years in constituent relations with City of Austin Councilmember Ellen Troxclair, who represents southwest Austin’s District 8.

 Map Source:  http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/here-how-reach-austin-district-council-member-ellen-troxclair/a0wAJJ1RByIWGZtBpF9i5H/

Map Source: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/here-how-reach-austin-district-council-member-ellen-troxclair/a0wAJJ1RByIWGZtBpF9i5H/

 

...I have been affectionately labeled “ The Lone Fiscal Conservative.” - Ellen Troxclair


What did you study in college and where did you attend school?

ET: I graduated from the University of Texas, with a degree in business.

Political Party Affiliation?

ET: The Austin City Council is a non-partisan position, but I have been affectionately labeled "The Lone Fiscal Conservative."

How did you get your start in politics?

ET: I accepted an internship at the Capitol when I was a sophomore at UT. I worked my way up and ultimately served as a Chief of Staff to two House members before running for office.

 

What did you study in college and where did you attend school?

CVA: I’m from a big happy family on Long Island, and met my future husband our first day at SUNY Albany. We lived in the Boston area before we decided to relocate our family to Texas. We moved here without local employ or knowing a soul in the area! But it was a safe gamble, thanks to all those who came here before us to create the thriving and friendly oasis that is Texas, and we all love it here.

Political party affiliation?

CVA: I’m independent.

How did you get your start in politics? Did you have a mentor?

CVA: My mentors include my parents – my father was a history professor, and my mother worked at home raising the seven of us. Their bright example very much affected my decisions to study history, and to stay home with our children for several years. My interest in history led to an interest in politics, especially free speech and school choice. I volunteered as I could when the kids were small for schools and campaigns. I’m so happy to contribute in the office of Councilmember Troxclair, and volunteer on the board of Valor Public Schools, opening next year in Austin.


"I’m so happy to contribute in the office of Councilmember Troxclair, and volunteer on the board of Valor Public Schools, opening next year in Austin." - Catherine Van Arnam


Council Member Troxclair, when did you know you wanted to run for office?

ET: A few years ago, the Austin City Council went through a historic change from an at-large system to a district based system. I was excited about the potential for my district, Southwest Austin, to elect a common sense member to Council who would address affordability, property taxes, and spending in the city. In looking for a candidate to support, my husband and I were disappointed that none of the existing four candidates were speaking to those issues. I was working for Rep. Jason Isaac at the time and loved my job, always happy to be behind the scenes and not the elected official. But, I knew that this was a critically important time for our city and ultimately decided that if I had the ability to step up and serve, but didn't, then I couldn't complain. It was already close to the filing deadline and I had to make the decision quickly. I was lucky to have the support of my family and of Rep. Isaac, so I jumped in. It's still surreal for me to be an elected official because it's not something that I had ever contemplated, but it's very rewarding to make a difference in my community in this way.

Catherine, when did you know you wanted to become involved in politics?

CVA: Years ago I organized a rally in support of allowing Cuban refugee Elian Gonzales to remain free. I felt pretty brave just for doing that, not realizing that I’d end up suing an arm of the federal government because of the burdens they imposed to hold a small, permitted rally on public land. I never forget that all of our rights thrive in the context of robust first amendment rights. It’s with this personal history that strive to pitch in with a great team in support of Councilmember Troxclair in her efforts toward more effective and efficient government. In my short time at City Hall I’ve seen her policy views – such as an affordability plan, and her work towards ending government waste - vilified, and her character groundlessly smeared. She has persevered as a strong and graceful voice for liberty, and that’s just so inspiring.     


"I knew that this was a critically important time for our city and ultimately decided that if I had the ability to step up and serve, but didn't, then I couldn't complain." - Ellen Troxclair


Council Member Troxclair, what's the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

ET: A couple come to mind:

  1. A former Austin Mayor told me before I was sworn in that you win some, you lose some. Don't get hung up on the losses. Ultimately, you need to work with your council colleagues for the next four years and you can't do that if you hold grudges.
  2. A former boss set a great example of leadership by always working to lift others up, especially those who work for you. Encouraging their professional and personal development and supporting their successes, even when it's not beneficial to you helps all boats rise. This helps to create a great working environment and builds unmatched loyalty.
  3. Attitude really is everything.

 

Something that is often misunderstood about your job(s)?

ET: Austin has a strong city manager system, rather than a strong mayor system. I would say City Council is the legislative branch while the City Manager is the executive branch.

CVA: Administrative and support roles are valuable; I wear my pink collar with pride.


"Administrative and support roles are valuable; I wear my pink collar with pride." - Catherine Van Arnam


Describe a time that you knew you were “good” at your job.

CVA: When constituents thank me for helping them find their way through City bureaucracy, or show appreciation for me being able to listen and try to understand their issues, that’s gratifying. I like to find the humor in things, so if I can also put a smile on their face, that’s a good day!

Favorite place to get your news?
CVA: KUT & KLBJ

You could never do your job without __________.

ET: The support of my amazing husband, Caleb.

Last time you were the only woman in the room during an important meeting.

ET: Happens ALL the time, and I don't let it bother me.

Favorite place for a business lunch?

ET: Zax

Favorite political TV show/movie?

ET: Veep

Favorite social media app?

Facebook (go follow me if you aren't already ;)


You can have dinner with anyone, living or dead - who and why?

ET: Margaret Thatcher, because she was such a badass (sorry, no other word to describe her).

CVA: I’d love to share a pitcher of sweet tea with Sam Houston.   

 

What’s always in your bag during the work day?

ET: Laptop, so I can send quick emails between meetings, a water bottle to get me through long work session, & my phone, filled with photos of my baby girl.

CVA: Little treasures I pick up at Toy Joy to bring home to our kids, and Advil.

 

Last Book You Read?

ET: The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion- It’s fascinating!

CVA:  The Last Lion, by William Manchester & Paul Reid. 


You can find Council Member Ellen Troxclair on her City website here, her campaign site here, Facebook, and Twitter.

Connect to Catherine Van Arnam via LinkedIn and on Twitter.