Newly elected to Town Council of Clarkdale, Marney Babbitt is navigating what it means to her to lead, to serve, and to find her voice. In this episode we learn more about her election journey as well as her stories about growing up in a service-oriented family and how she learned to speak up for what she believed at a young age.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Town of Clarkdale
- Girls on the Run
- Flagstaff Leadership Program
- Do Good, Be Good’s Facebook Page
- Do Good, Be Good Merch
- Want to start your own podcast or blog? Check out Fizzle
0:00:00.2 Marney Babbitt-Pierce: I’m probably not gonna show up to a ton of town events in a pink sparkly tutu, unless we’re doing things where pink sparkly tutu is really appropriate, but I can still wear my pink sparkly tutu on the inside.
0:00:20.7 Speaker 2: This is Do Good, Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
0:00:41.5 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Hello, I’m your host, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. The voice you just heard, is our guest for today, Marney Babbitt-Pierce. I don’t remember when I first met Marney, but I know that I got to know her when we were both part of the Flagstaff Leadership Program. That’s here in the town where I live in Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, Arizona. Marney now lives in Clarkdale, which is a beautiful small town that’s between Flagstaff and the city of Phoenix. I interviewed her there in Clarkdale sitting in a park underneath a golden cottonwood tree, and of course, we were at a safe distance from each other. It was fairly quiet, [chuckle] but you will hear some background noise from trucks and rustling leaves, which hopefully is just some nice fall ambience. I’ll let Marney introduce herself. So let’s go ahead and jump into our conversation.
0:01:36.3 MB: My name is Marney Babbitt-Pierce, and I am a member of the Town Council of Clarkdale, a health coach with an internet start-up and a volunteer in my community.
0:01:48.8 ST: I see you as someone who’s always involved and active in helping people. Is that something that’s always been a part of your life? Do you remember the earliest times that you were helping out?
0:02:00.7 MB: Yeah, I mean, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved. My father has been or was an elected official my entire childhood, my mom when I was little, volunteered a lot for the Red Cross, so some of my earliest memories are continental flooded when I was little, and she got up in the middle of the night and left to go help house people.
0:02:22.2 ST: When your mom was volunteering for the Red Cross, do you remember maybe a specific time when you woke up and you found out that something had happened overnight, and your mom had had to go in the middle of the night to help out?
0:02:36.5 MB: I don’t remember a specific instance.
0:02:39.3 ST: The way you talked about it, I wondered if it was like, you know, that time that you wake up and you think, I just want my mom. Where is my mom? Why is she off bothering with other people?
0:02:51.0 MB: No, and it’s really interesting that you asked that, but I think that that was part of the understanding in our family, it was like, we take care of each other and each other in our community, and sometimes that means that we don’t get exactly what we want in this moment, sometimes you might want mom right now and you get dad or you get whoever is around in the moment, because mom is out taking care of other people, and that is a job that only she can do, and that was a really powerful thing to learn in a couple of ways, that our community is really important and lots of people need us, and that we can all learn to make do with what we are given in that moment, but then also that there are some of us that are uniquely suited for some roles, and there’s a lot of value in that. I don’t think that that’s something we talk about in the world enough and recognize for people we talk about, anybody could do your job and you’re replaceable and… Yeah, sometimes that is true, but also you are uniquely suited for that role when you are in the right place, when you are living from a space of your values, from a place where you feel comfortable and confident, you bring unique values to that role. And we need to celebrate that.
0:04:09.2 ST: I love the idea of thinking of your mom as, going out and doing something that she is uniquely positioned to do, and having that as a role model at an early age. I think we often do talk about how our own moms are uniquely suited to be there for us and to be our moms, but being able to see them as these multi-faceted human beings that are also there for other people or also have special talents that they bring to the community, to their important work, I think that’s really… That sounds great.
0:04:42.6 MB: They were both super active in the community and in giving back, and they took us when it was appropriate, I attended a lot of campaign events as a small child, and that really shaped who I grew into. The first year I’m eligible to run for president is 2024, so I still have a chance.
0:05:00.7 ST: We’re watching.
0:05:02.5 MB: Probably not gonna happen, but that’s what I wanted to be when I grow up. I wanted… Ironically, to be the first woman president.
0:05:11.1 ST: Still an opening.
0:05:11.2 MB: Still an opening, which is really disappointing. I wish that I had wanted, if I could, have… Not that I have any control over it, right? But if I could manifest it, if I had said I wanna be a woman president, would we have a female president now? I don’t know, I don’t know if that works that way.
0:05:25.4 ST: You are the reason, you’re holding us up. [chuckle]
0:05:27.0 MB: I don’t wanna give myself that much power, but I do believe that what we wish for and so… Yeah, but I’ve always wanted to be involved in public life. I volunteered from a really young age, Flagstaff, when I was in high school, had a Youth Commission, and so that was an opportunity that they gave for kids to get involved and host conferences and just kinda test it out and see what it’s like, and I really loved it. I’ve always been active in things, I wasn’t in student government in high school, which is kind of ironic, but beyond that, definitely been involved and definitely taking the opportunity to just step up when there were things that needed to be done. So I grew up in Flagstaff, I left for my last couple of years of high school, wanted to see the world when your family has lived somewhere since 1886. There’s a big wide world out there and it’s exciting and it’s intriguing, and I got out there and I got to experience it, and I got to live in five different states and see what else was out there and realized I just love Arizona, I mostly love the weather, but I also love the people and the community, and now I get to be back. My grandfather grew up here in Clarksdale. His house was actually right over there, which is pretty cool, it’s a radio station now.
0:06:42.0 ST: Makes up for really good radio.
0:06:44.1 MB: Yeah, right over there. All you people out there who can’t see it. But it’s two blocks from where we’re sitting in this gorgeous park that has been preserved by the community, and so that’s really cool that there’s history, and that I get to be a part of it and I get to help move the community forward.
0:07:03.7 ST: So how would you describe Clarkdale to someone who has never been here? And who may or may not ever get a chance to visit?
0:07:13.9 MB: Absolutely. So Clarkdale is the first master plans community in the State of Arizona. It was founded as a copper mining town, so the mine was up the mountain in Jerome, the smelter was here in Clarkdale, and Clarkdale was established to house all of the workers. Isn’t that cool that they used to build towns to house people? The mine closed in the ’50s and a lot of people left, they’re still a small community population of around 4000 now, we are situated along the Verde River, which is one of the only stream rivers in the state of Arizona that flows year round, so there’s a ton of beautiful outdoor opportunities there. We are situated a little bit west of Sedona, Arizona, so from a lot of places in town, you can see the beautiful red rocks. So copper was a huge part of our history, we are now leading the way in the Arizona wine industry. Our environment here is perfect for growing grapes, so we have a two-year college that has one of the only viticulture and analogy programs in the country, so people come from all over to earn their degrees, then that’s where my husband works, and he is the director at Yavapai College and helps with that program and the future of the wine industry in the Verde Valley.
0:08:35.1 ST: Very good. I’m sure people who haven’t been here are going to wanna visit at this point.
0:08:39.9 MB: We’ve got our doors, we’ve got wine, we’ve got pastries…
0:08:42.1 ST: They have really good pastries?
0:08:43.9 MB: We do.
0:08:44.0 ST: Really good food, I think, for the limited number of restaurants, they’re good.
0:08:55.1 ST: Pausing our conversation for a moment to remind you that a transcript of today’s episode is available in the show notes at dogoodbegoodshow.com, as well as links to anything that Marney or I mentioned. If you are interested in podcasting, blogging or starting an online business, check out Fizzle. That’s where I learned the technical skills that were necessary to bring you this story. You can find my referral link in the show notes. With that link, you will get a month of courses coaching and community for only a dollar, and you can see me there. Using the link will also support the show. Now, back to my conversation with Marney, where we jump into talking about being true to who you are, especially at work, including when you love the color pink and you have a desire to wear tutus and fancy hats.
0:09:48.7 MB: And I was super fortunate when I was Council Director of Girls On the Run to be leading an organization that was what they valued, that’s what we professed, like come to the 5K as you are. Whatever you feel in your heart, put that on the outside, and that’s how we all showed up, and it was great to get to come, in a pink tutu all the time and have glitter and mostly just everything pink because that’s how I feel on the inside. And so I wanna show it on the outside. And when I was at Girls On The Run and really happy and not looking for a job anywhere else, somebody else in another department asked me if I would be interested in considering a role with them, and I jokingly, but sort of seriously asked, can my email signature still be pink? And they said No, and I was like, Well, you know, that’s actually at this point in my life, silly as it seems, something that’s really important to me, like I wanna live my values every day, I wanna get up and share who I am with the world and part of that for me is having a pink email signature because you know, immediately that I’m pretty joyful and I don’t take myself too seriously.
0:10:56.5 ST: So I’m curious, since you did just run for public office, were there any photos that surfaced or did you surface them of you in neon tights and a tutu and put that on some campaign posters?
0:11:08.0 MB: You know, I didn’t. Not in that specific way, but I did think a lot about my campaign signs, because how often do you see campaign signs that you can’t read? So it was like, Okay, so legibility is super important, what do we wanna put on there, what do we not wanna put on there, and then color choice. Man, if I had my way, they all would have been bright pink, but that probably strategically wasn’t the best decision and so we ended up with turquoise, which I felt really good about, ’cause it’s still joyful and it speaks to Arizona, it speaks to where we are, but it wasn’t bright pink, so sometimes you gotta speak to your audience and decide what’s important, but at the heart of it, how can you make sure you still get to be you and feel you, and…
0:11:54.1 ST: What aspects of you do you wanna bring to this moment. That wasn’t a question. That was just a reflection.
0:12:00.6 MB: Oh, okay. I was thinking…
0:12:02.6 ST: That’s how I’m framing it. In choosing the turquoise rather than the pink, it’s like both of these… I’m not not being myself, but I’m bringing a version of myself to the moment that fits with the need of the moment.
0:12:15.7 MB: Right. And that can be attractive to a wide range of people, that’s an important thing for me in public service, is making sure that I am serving my whole community, I am in a non-partisan position, I am a member of my community, I am here to represent everyone whether we agree, disagree. That’s what’s important to me is making sure that their voices are heard. I need to be somebody that feels approachable to them, so you know that I also love hats, like really love hats, I have an incredible hat collection, and I wear hats often. I had to decide when I was taking my professional headshot for the town to not wear a hat, because I wanted to make sure that I was approachable, so that is a part of me, and people who know me and people who see me out, will be like Oh, she’s wearing a hat, but I can still be approachable, we’re in a photo that’s gonna be on a town website where that people are gonna have no context for who I am, that could make me less approachable. So I’m probably not gonna show up to a ton of town events in a pink sparkly tutu, unless we’re doing things where a pink sparkly tutu is really appropriate, but I can still wear my pink sparkly tutu on the inside.
0:13:31.1 ST: I asked Marney if there was a time she had to step outside of her comfort zone.
0:13:36.2 MB: And this is a tiny example, but I think it speaks to the larger, which is when you run for public office, you have to go get petition signatures. And so I had to go knock on the doors of people that I didn’t know and had never met and say, Hey, I’m a candidate running for office, would you be willing to… Or not even a candidate. I want to be a candidate to run for office, would you be willing to sign my petition so I can get my name on the ballot, and that is vulnerability right there, because I haven’t been in office, I didn’t know what issues people were excited about, are they gonna ask me to have questions that I can’t answer? Are they gonna say no? And you get to the point where you’re like, Okay, the worst thing that can happen is they’re gonna ask me a question that I can’t answer, so I will tell them that I will do some research and I’ll come back. Or they’re gonna say no, and I’m gonna say, Okay, thank you, and I’m gonna move on with my life. But in the moment, asking somebody that you don’t know for something seems really, really hard, but after the first couple of doors and the first couple of people telling you no, or I’m not a registered voter or whatever, then you’re like, Oh, that wasn’t so bad.
0:14:45.3 ST: It seems like you succeed a lot at this moment in time, I mean, just won election and having gotten married and living a beautiful life in Clarkdale, I feel like… Yeah, we need to show that you are also human who also fails sometimes.
0:15:06.8 MB: If I think about disappointment and how it has stuck with me, I was working in higher education and I knew that I needed to get out, it wasn’t fitting my needs anymore, I heard about Girls On The Run, I thought it was the most incredible organization, I knew I wanted to be involved, and I started applying for jobs across the country, and I thought I was the super most qualified came to be, I had tons of experience in Youth Programs, I had non-profit experience, I work really hard, and I was so excited and I applied for four jobs, as Girls On the Run councils across the country. Did not so much as get a phone interview, and I was devastated because I was like, this organization fits me perfectly, and I know that this is how I wanna go out and impact the world, and so I moved back to Flagstaff into my parents house, which at the time was pretty tough after having owned a house and gone out and been a real grown-up to say, You know, I’m gonna come home, I’m gonna lick my wounds, I’m gonna figure out what’s next, because what I think is what’s next is clearly not the universe’s plan for me.
0:16:14.7 MB: And then the Girls On The Run of Northern Arizona ended up hiring, so that was a pretty cool opportunity, and of course, failures don’t always work that way. But that moment of disappointment is that opportunity to stop and think like, Okay, I’m experiencing a ton of disappointment here, what is that about? Why am I disappointed? And for me, it was because I found this thing that just seemed like such a perfect fit, the values aligned so beautifully. I knew that that’s where I wanted to be, and so it was like, Okay, so figure out how to get there, how do you strategize, what do you make that next plan to be? Sometimes when those failures are coming so quickly, you don’t have time to stop and think it’s like, Okay, this was the idea, this part worked, this part didn’t work, we’re gonna move forward into the next, this part and this part, and keep moving forward, and that’s actually the beauty of it, right? That’s the resiliency. The challenge gets to when you have that failure and you aren’t able to move forward and you let that stop you from moving forward.
0:17:23.3 ST: I feel like you’re also… I love the strategic way you’re talking about it, but I’m also envisioning you the whole time sitting in your childhood bedroom trying to look at this with your adult strategic eyes while also not beating yourself up about the fact that this has to take place from your childhood bedroom, which I think a lot of people can relate to right now. Because there is a lot of people who have had a reason why they’ve had to move home or move in with someone else or something right now.
0:17:52.1 MB: And you know, I loved that time in my life, I loved being close to my parents, I got to spend an incredible amount of time with them, and learn more about them as humans, and ask questions about things. I grew up believing this, how did you teach us that, how did you instill that value in us? And I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I had still been in Texas or Tennessee or South Carolina. And maybe I would have called my mom and asked about it, but not the same way that we got to over dinner, and I am so grateful.
0:18:26.4 ST: Alright, we’re gonna jump ahead so that I can piggy-back on what we had been talking about about the campaign and you were knocking on doors, you were trying to get the petition signatures. I’m wondering from the time you started, not even sure if you could get on the ballot, through the campaign, was there something that was positive, but also very unexpected?
0:18:50.7 MB: You know, I had a person email me and asked me a question that I truly hadn’t thought about, and it really made me think differently about the whole situation, and the question was, when there is a vote coming, and you are the only person who is gonna vote differently from the rest of the council, how do you feel about that? And I thought, man, what a great thing to think about, because I can see how that would be so challenging. And then I thought back to all the times in my life where I have had the opportunity to stand up and say, “You guys can all go do that. And I’m not interested.” And how valuable that was for me. So when I was 15, the FUSD School Board had a really big conversation about whether they were gonna allow vending machines to have soda in them in schools or not, and that was something I felt super passionate about. Again, have always been super involved in health and wellness, and so I wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Sun, which is the local Flagstaff newspaper, and I said, “I don’t think that we should have vending machines with soda in them in schools. If people want soda, they have other places they can go get it, but we as a school need to be setting the standard and saying “We have evidence to show that this is not beneficial for people, and so we’re not gonna provide it””.
0:20:20.5 MB: And I got attacked, and I got attacked by other students, another student wrote a letter to the editor in response, and I remember thinking like, I’m trying to do the right thing here. And it was a really great lesson and you can do the right thing and not everyone’s gonna agree with you, and you can move forward, and that’s okay. So now at 34, when there’s a council vote, I can say with confidence and not worry too much, because I know what I value and that I’m representing more than just myself in these situations, and so I wanna be the voice of all the other people who elected me, who feel the same way that I do, and that’s even more powerful if I can do it for myself, “Wow” to be able to do that for other people too! . And if we think about what has happened in the last nine months of the world and what we have seen, it is more vital than ever to stand up and say, That’s not okay and I am not going to participate.
0:21:26.1 ST: The podcast is called Do Good, Be Good. What does it mean to you to be good?
0:21:31.0 MB: To be good means to live at your values, to know what’s right in your heart, and to do it, and to do it in a respectful way to those around you, but not to listen too deeply to the naysayers. You gotta do what feels right for you, and not take how other people view things more seriously than how you view things. We have to be comfortable living out in the world. There’s an awesome Theodore Roosevelt quote, and he talks about an arena and being in the arena, and there’s a lot of people in the stands and they’re gonna be hurling insults and they’re gonna be throwing things at you, but they’re not in the arena with you, and so make sure that you are only really valuing what those other people who are in the arena with you, those other people who have dirt on their face and under their fingernails, what are they saying? And how do you feel about what they’re saying? ‘Cause they’re always gonna be doubters, and they’re always gonna be loud voices, and learning how to shut them out and listen to your heart and trust yourself.
0:22:48.8 ST: Thank you for listening to Do Good, Be Good. For show notes on all of our episodes, visit dogoodbegoodshow.com, and if you want more of behind the scenes stories and insights, check out the show page on facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow. Thank you so much to Marney for sharing her story. And to subscribe to the podcast for free, so that you get each episode as soon as it is released, search for Do Good Be Good in Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Music or your podcast app of choice. This podcast was produced, recorded and edited by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Music in this episode is bathed in fine dust by Andy G. Cohen, released under Creative Commons Attribution international license, and discovered in the free music archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom signing off.