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'Use your voice': Elected female officials mentor women to get involved

More than 80 women learned about political advocacy and how to run a campaign during the Utah Women Run's winter training on Saturday at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

More than 80 women learned about political advocacy and how to run a campaign during the Utah Women Run's winter training on Saturday at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. (Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski didn't picture herself as a government leader.

Originally a city prosecutor in Sandy, Zoltanski first got involved in local government issues when she started the Keep Dimple Dell Wild initiative in 2017 that stopped the city from paving a trail in Sandy.

After that, friends and neighbors of Zoltanski kept looking to her for help on city issues. So Zoltanski decided to get more involved in local government and attended a Real Women Run seminar where she interacted with female elected officials and other women who were also eager to get involved in their communities.

With the help of people at Real Women Run, Zoltanski ran for Sandy City Council. She was elected, served for two years then ran for mayor. She was elected as mayor in 2021 and said she still relies on the experiences, advice and relationships she built from the community of women leaders at Real Women Run.

"The reason I am here today is to show if I can do it in Sandy, maybe you could do it in your city or town," Zoltanski said Saturday.

"Women bring such a dynamic and refreshing perspective to government and leadership and people look to women leaders as very authentic, hardworking, organized, driven and effective leaders. We need more women leaders in Utah."

Helping women run for office

Real Women Run was started in 2011 as a nonpartisan group to encourage women in Utah to run for office and become politically engaged. The organization was renamed as Utah Women Run when it came to the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics last year, said Morgan Lyon Cotti, the associate director of the Hinckley Institute and chairwoman for Utah Women Run.

Lyon Cotti grew up in a politically engaged family and she is passionate about increasing voter turnout and encouraging all people to run for office.

"The more voices we have around the table, the better policy solutions and more representation we have that hopefully leads to better outcomes for our state," she said. "We need your voice, we want everybody at the table."

More than 80 women gathered at the Hinckley Institute Saturday where they learned about political advocacy and how to run a campaign and networked with female government leaders during the Utah Women Run's annual winter training.

More than 80 women learned about political advocacy and how to run a campaign during Utah Women Run's winter training on Saturday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Participants met with mayors, councilwomen and other female elected officials for advice on working in government.
More than 80 women learned about political advocacy and how to run a campaign during Utah Women Run's winter training on Saturday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Participants met with mayors, councilwomen and other female elected officials for advice on working in government. (Photo: Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)

Lyon Cotti said the winter training has been a "mainstay" event for Utah Women Run that provides options for women who are new to community involvement as well as to those ready to declare candidacy.

The day started off with keynote speakers and a panel of women who have run who share their experiences about their candidacies.

The event included a networking lunch where attendees met, discussed issues and got advice from mayors, city councilwomen and other female elected officials in Utah. Participants attended breakout sessions focusing on organizing and fundraising for campaigns, media and messaging, getting started in community involvement, campaign finances and strategy, outreach and canvassing.

Alyssa May, an Orem resident and member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, wrote to her legislators this week about some issues, and she was disappointed in their responses. She said attending the event felt like something she could do instead of just being angry.

May said she cares so much about her city and community, and that if the only way to make change happen is to run for a city council position, then she might do it. Although she has not decided yet if she will one day run, May was excited to learn how local election campaigns work.


Men and women are better together and it's good to have diversity of ideas and so we need events like this to push women forward, especially in Utah.

–Orem resident Alyssa May


"Women have great ideas and make good policy. But we are better together. Men and women are better together and it's good to have diversity of ideas and so we need events like this to push women forward, especially in Utah," May said.

Jackie Biskupski, a former Utah legislator and former Salt Lake City mayor, was one of the mentors during the networking lunch. She co-founded Real Women Run because she believes that in all issues, "more women need to be leading."

"We have a lot of work to do in this community to make sure that voices are heard and perspectives are involved in decision-making," Biskupski said.

She said a lot of women doubt themselves and hesitate to get involved in government. But if a woman is passionate about something, she should figure out what needs to be done to get change made, and get involved.

"I wish fewer women question their abilities," Biskupski said. "We have remarkable women in this community who are stellar leaders in all kinds of ways. And really, there is no reason we shouldn't have 50% of the seats."


We have remarkable women in this community who are stellar leaders in all kinds of ways. And really, there is no reason we shouldn't have 50% of the seats.

–Former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski


Helen Moser from the League of Women Voters of Salt Lake said she supports Utah Women Run because the league wants to increase representation in government.

"The more women that are represented in our elected officials, the greater influence we can have on issues that matter to us," Moser said.

Moser said the League of Women Voters set up a booth at the event to connect with attendees to help them see that the league as an ally in local government.

Zoltanski said although she was nervous to speak up and start getting involved, once she started, people joined her. Others might feel alone at first and it might be scary, but she said by bringing in more voices, you have the power to make elected officials sit up and take notice.

"You just got to do it. Start going to city council meetings," Zoltanski says to anyone looking to get involved in local government.

"If there is an issue that's important, use your voice."

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UtahPoliticsSalt Lake County
Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for KSL.com.

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