OPINION FROM COMMUNITY VOICES

Joy Schendledecker for Santa Cruz City Council District 3: I want to help craft public policy and budgets for maximum well-being

Santa Cruz City Council District 3 candidate Joy Schendledecker. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Honestly, I’ve never thought of myself as a leader. I’ve always seen myself as a behind-the-scenes helper. I never ran for class president or aspired to be the CEO of anything. While I was smart enough and did well in school, I was also a dreamy ADD kid, more interested in creating than in conventional achievements. 

The experience of multiple household moves and reconfigurations after my parents’ divorce and my mother’s remarriage only deepened my internal world-building. Although I haven’t faced the worst life has to offer and enjoy a relative amount of privilege and stability, I bear my share of complex trauma. My father’s sudden death when I was 19 was the most destabilizing event of my life. Learning to live with that grief and abandonment heightened my sensitivity to interpersonal connections and the universality of loss. In a sense, it laid the foundation for my drive to make the real world better in concrete ways.As a child and as an unpaid and unrecognized caregiver for many years, I have often felt invisible. If I harbor a personal ambition in running for office, it is to be seen and heard, to leave my mark on the world. As my children mature and I grapple with rebalancing competing goals and responsibilities, I ponder what my legacy will be. I don’t want to be a mere footnote in the history of my partner’s life, nor do I wish to become another forgotten woman artist who sacrificed passion and vocation to care for others (or at least not only that).

My entry into electoral politics might seem surprising or unconventional, but it is grounded in my real ambition to amplify the needs of others, to help craft public policy and budgets for maximum well-being. Embarking on the path of public service, my commitment to “Justice in All Things: People, Housing, Environment” is shaped by personal experience, decades of community organizing, a career uniting activism and art, and an unwavering sense of ethical civic responsibility.

 

Leadership is also a site of struggle — a delicate balance between dedication to one’s political base, listening to opposing views, building consensus and making the hard calls. True leadership is advocating for change, even amid adversity – like calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, fighting for the human rights of local people who don’t have housing, or redistributing wealth. It’s about aligning decisions with values, not merely seeking respectability but staying true to guiding principles.

In sharing all this, I want you to know that I come from a place of deep empathy and understanding. I want a seat at the table, but I’m not here to be the hero. It’s about modeling accountability through transparency and effective communication. It’s about working in a leaderful community: collaborating with and raising up more and more organizers and leaders, fostering a collective vision for justice, improving material conditions for regular people, and ensuring the empowerment of everyone in our diverse community. 

Joy Schendledecker’s campaign site is here.