Barbara Ramsey didn’t plan on a career in politics after her successful business career, but she rose to the occasion when her community needed her. Ramsey started volunteering with Williamsburg’s Neighborhood Relations Committee. While volunteering she learned that the only female council member planned to retire. Ramsey decided to run, knowing how important a woman’s perspective is in leadership. She announced her campaign shortly after and won the election. Over her time on city council, she’s worked to improve the local economy, increase tourism and build relations between William & Mary and the city of Williamsburg.
1975: graduated the College of William & Mary with a B.S. in Biology
1979: started working at Kent D. Klyman and Associates
1990: started working at Thomasville Furniture Industries and worked as the sole representative in Europe then in the hospitality sector
2013: retired form Thomasville Furniture and began work in the Membership Office of the Clubs of Colonial Williamsburg
2017: started term on Williamsburg’s City Council
Q & A with Powerful Woman Leader Councilwoman Barbara Ramsey:
Q: At College Magazine we’re working together with EMILY’s List, Emerge America, Human Rights Campaign, Higher Heights, She Should Run, Victory Fund and IGNITE on an initiative to fight for equal representation in Congress called “50 by 2050.” What are your thoughts on the goal of achieving 50% of women in Congress by 2050?
A: Although I think achieving 50 percent will be hard, I believe it is an admirable and important goal because women bring a different and essential perspective to elected representatives.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in the political sphere and run for city council?
A: A number of years ago, I was appointed to the [Williamsburg] city’s Neighborhood Relations Committee which spurred my interest in local government. In 2016, the only woman on City Council announced that she wasn’t going to run again. Feeling strongly that a woman was needed on Council, that was the catalyst for me to run. I was also motivated by my life experiences, my close and long connection to Williamsburg and that I had sufficient time to dedicate to the position.
Q: What was your campaign focused on?
A: My campaign was focused on being a bridge between the major stakeholders in Williamsburg, strengthening and diversifying our economy to ensure taxes remain low and to help preserve the character of Williamsburg. I also continue to emphasize collaboration between the city and William & Mary; working closely together can only be a benefit and a “win-win” for both.
Q: When running for office, did you face any specific challenges being a woman?
A: Absolutely not. In fact, I have never faced any difficulty due to my gender. I was fortunate in that all my employers saw value in women employees.
Q: What are potential obstacles that women running for office face?
A: TIME. Being a member of City Council involves much more than attending the required monthly and committee assigned meetings. I am a representative of the city and want to support all facets and endeavors of the city whether they be business openings and ribbon cuttings, city-sponsored events, outside agency events, etc.—all of which take a lot of time.
There is also a significant amount of correspondence requiring response time. As a retiree, I have time to devote to the position, however, women with a family and job may be constrained. In addition, running for office requires having the means and/or raising money for a campaign which could be a deterrent. Once elected, compensation is minimal.
Q: What has been the most rewarding moment or project you have worked on thus far in your career as a city councilwoman?
A: The creation of Williamsburg’s Tourism Development Fund. With this, we’ve taken steps to expand both the tourism product and marketing in the Williamsburg area. Our lifeblood is tourism. It’s imperative that we expand outside our historical base to recruit and promote new types of businesses and customers.
Q: How do you think your background in business and volunteerism prepared you for your job on city council?
A: My life experiences, sales and marketing career as well as living elsewhere [stateside and overseas], are of great value to being a member of City Council. In my business career, I developed problem solving and organizational skills, as well as the ability to work collaboratively which all serve me well. I also have an uncanny ability to make connections between varied groups.
My interaction with William & Mary has helped me develop a broader view of the college and kept me in touch with students, alumni and administrators and their concerns, issues and interests. In addition, I began an initiative this year called “Break Bread with Barb” where I monthly host a group of students and pertinent alumni at my home for dinner and conversation. One such group was the Entrepreneurship Fellows and an alumni cofounder of the Virginia Beer Company.
Q: Over the last few months in particular, we’ve seen more women running for office and getting involved in that process. How do you feel that will shape the political sphere in this country?
A: Women elected officials often bring a different perspective and mindset to government positions that is needed; we tend to be strong in relationship building, pay attention to detail and are collaborative getting people with different points of view to work together. In fact, I think it’s important for women to hold leadership positions in all types of organizations whether it be local, state or national Government, corporations, nonprofits, military, etc.
How to be a Powerful Women Leader
1. Get involved
Connect with your local government and elected officials. Get involved on projects to learn about government and your community’s primary goals. “First and foremost: Get off campus and learn about the community, its goals, initiatives, objectives and needs. Attend (or watch online) meetings, read what is posted on municipal websites and social media,” Ramsey said.
2. Do what matters to you
Think critically and try different things to truly discover what matters to you and what you want to focus on. “Figure out what’s of interest and importance to you then contact your local representative and ask about policies, volunteer opportunities and how to get involved,” Ramsey said. This will help you to work towards goals you care about and make your involvement in politics more rewarding.
3.“Do important instead of being important”
Running for office is about helping the constituents you serve and working to improve their community. “Doing important instead of being important” is Ramsey’s mantra because she focuses on finding solutions and improving Williamsburg, rather than focusing on developing a career in politics.
How to Contact Barbara Ramsey
Follow her on Facebook.