Being a mayor of a city with over 34,000 people wasn’t always Debbie Winn’s goal.
“I was born and raised here my whole life but I never intended to be the mayor,” Winn said. “I never saw that in my future.”
After Winn’s children grew up and went off to school, she decided to go to work and was hired at the Transcript Bulletin.
During her time at the Transcript, Winn worked in several different departments and eventually ended up in the advertising department.
“As I worked in advertising, I became really interested in business and what business did,” she said.
Winn’s interest in business led her to a job at the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce.
“I applied for their [Chamber’s] executive director position twice, because the first time I didn’t get the job… I applied again and I was at the Chamber for seven years, and during those seven years, I wanted to make sure that the city did not pass legislation that would hurt business. I wanted to make sure that the local government understood business,” Winn explained.
Because of her concern for local business, Winn began attending Tooele City Council and Planning Commission meetings.
“I really became interested in the government,” Winn said. “I was just very interested in what went on and who did that. In seven years, I hardly missed a meeting.”
Winn eventually applied for a vacant seat on the Tooele City Council and was appointed. She held her seat for five years.
During her last year on the Council, community members began asking Winn to change things about the city and do things differently.
“I told them that it wasn’t my job as a Council member to change things and the only way I could do that is if I ran for mayor,” she said. “So, I thought, you know what, why not give it a shot. I thought I could make changes and improve people’s lives.”
After her election as mayor, Winn found out that she was the city’s first female mayor.
“Interestingly enough, I didn’t know that I was the first female mayor until after I was elected,” she said. “We didn’t really talk about it and I didn’t really think about it. I had seen a list of all the mayors but there were a few names that could have been female, like a name that could have gone either way. After someone told me I was the first female mayor, I felt like there was a lot of pressure to make sure I wasn’t messing things up.”
Being a woman, Winn brings a different perspective to the city.
“I feel like women have compassion and empathy for people. I think I might have done things a little differently in that respect,” she said. “I also feel like women can be strong and be good leaders. I would love to see more women involved in government, because I think it makes a difference to have someone with a different outlook.”
Each day, Winn wakes up with a positive mindset and the hope that she will make a difference in the lives of Tooele City residents.
“The thing that gives me the most satisfaction and helps me know I’m making a difference is really serving the people,” Winn said. “That’s what this job is. I’ve always said to people, ‘I’m not a politician; I’m a public servant.’ My goal wasn’t to be the mayor, then be something else, and then to run for political office my whole life. My goal was to serve the people. That’s how I feel good about myself.”
Winn is inspired when residents of the city treat others with kindness.
“I am inspired when I see how people treat each other,” she said. “I believe if we treat how we want to be treated, that really is the magic answer for everything in our world…I like to see a neighbor helping another neighbor…”
Winn also enjoys residents bringing city issues to her attention, but if you call Winn, be prepared to help solve the problem.
“When people say, ‘I’m sorry to call and complain’ I say, ‘Listen, if you’re bringing [the problem] to my attention — I need you to do that. It’s not complaining,’” said Winn. But, I also ask them if they have an answer. I ask them how they would take care of it or how they expect us to handle it as a city.”
In her free time, Winn enjoys spending time with her family.
“I just really like spending time with my family, especially Sunday dinner where everyone comes to eat,” she said. “I love cooking with my husband. We love doing that together. We also love going camping. We all have side-by-sides. We love camping in the RV. We really like Tooele County, because we don’t have to go too far.”
Winn also enjoys talking to groups of young women and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.
“When I speak to young women, I tell them that I want them to understand that everyone should feel like they’re important and have good self esteem knowing that they can do good things,” Winn said. “Everybody has a different role in the world- not everyone can be the same- and we don’t want them to be the same. I want them to be proud of who they are and feel like they can make a change to the world and a difference, no matter who they are.”
Winn would like to thank city staff, residents of the city, and her family for their support.
“It’s really just an honor and a privilege to serve as mayor,” she said. “There are days that it is very challenging and I want to get more done but I want to make this a great place to live and a place people can be proud of.”