Dance Like Everybody’s Watching
Within four minutes of meeting my dance partner, Charles Stone, he said, “You’re going to do a flip.”
I thought there was no way this mayor is going upside down. I’ll take my non-existent dance experience (including no gymnastics experience) and be happy to keep both feet on the ground. What if I embarrass myself? What if I miss a beat or forget a move?
I soon realized Charles was serious, and I’ll never forget shaking with fear before that first flip. The trick is to build up momentum, give it a little “hop,” trust your partner, and have faith.
I was one of six “celebrities” chosen for SSM Health’s Dancing with the Stars to benefit the St. Mary’s Foundation Cancer Patient Care Fund. At first I thought, “Sure, they make it look so effortless and easy on TV, how hard can it be?” Well, dance is a language I’ve never spoken, but I learned through practice, repetition, and adding my own “accent.”
It was much like deciding to run for mayor. When I ran, there had only been one woman in our city’s history to be elected as mayor, in the 1990s. The odds were not in my favor, but that never crossed my mind. When people say (with surprise), “You’re the mayor?” I proudly tell them I am the second woman to be elected mayor. It’s the same conversation when I run into mothers who introduce me to their young children and say, “See, a girl can be mayor!” I chime in and say absolutely yes, you can be whatever you put your mind to.
Having recently being elected as vice chair of the Missouri State University Board of Governors, I’m now also on the first team of women, along with Chair Virginia Fry, to lead the board in the university’s history. I am proud to be an example that women are leaders, and we should all aspire to work hard to reach our goals, no matter our background, no matter what people may expect. It is certainly something to celebrate, and having women lead the MSU Board of Governors is a true example of that. We have two great leaders in the position of Chair and Vice Chair, we just happen to be women, and it’s great to be part of that history.
All that’s to say that this dancing thing wasn’t the first time I had done something I’d never done before, and it was a lesson in letting go of the fear of flipping, worrying about an outcome, or what others would think. I certainly learned life lessons from the experience. Knowing when to lead and when to follow, and how to do both, is the difference between a beautiful dance and just jumping around all over the place.
We’ll never fly keeping both feet on the ground. Sometimes we need a little flip out of our comfort zone, a lift with some momentum, and partnership to make things happen. You could say Jeff City is flipping with forward movement. Just look at Capitol Avenue, the prison redevelopment and Wynonna’s Concert Inside the Walls on July 1, the Riverfront Access moving forward, a new high school on the horizon, the Linc, the Boys & Girls Club, the Special Olympics Training Campus, and everything else going on in our great city.
I am now known as the Dancing Mayor, and if you call me the Flippin’ Mayor, I will take that as a compliment! Whatever you do #JCMO, just dance!