March 16, 2018 4:57 pm

Victoria Woodards never really had her sights set on pursuing a career in politics. But Tacoma’s newly elected mayor has always felt a calling to serve the community. Even as a member of the military taking night classes at Pierce College, she served the veteran community as a student worker in the college’s Veteran’s Affairs office. It was her supervisor there who made a profound impact on her and gave her the courage to pursue her goals. “He made me believe every day that I could achieve my goals,” she said.

It was her supervisor who talked her into considering a job opportunity that would ultimately change the trajectory of her life. The Tacoma Urban League was searching for an executive assistant and asked her to interview for the position. “I ended up interviewing and taking the job, while continuing to take night classes at Pierce,” she said. “This was a job that truly showed me what it was like to work hard every day and actually see the impact you could have on the community. I’ve always had the goal to be of service and to help people.”

She made such an impact in the Urban League that she caught the attention of Tacoma’s first African American city councilmember and mayor, Harold Moss, during his time on the Pierce County Council. She enjoyed working for Moss and supporting policymakers from a distance, but wasn’t interested in serving in public office until a vacancy came up in the Metro Parks Tacoma board of commissioners. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of deciding what happens to the beautiful parks in Tacoma?” she said. “I applied and was appointed as a parks commissioner, and that was when I got my first taste of work as a policymaker. I just loved the work and found that I had a gift. Once I realized that, I felt I had an obligation to show little girls and boys who look like me that you can use your gifts to make this community better for everyone who lives here.”

Woodards spent five years as a parks board commissioner before a Tacoma City Council seat opened. She ran for office and spent seven years there. “After a while, people started saying things to me like they can’t wait until I was their next mayor,” she said. “I started thinking about it. In Nov. 2016, the national political scene made me think hard about what I can really do locally to make sure everybody is taken care of. That was the turning point that inspired me to think seriously about running for mayor.”

Although the campaign was a difficult race, her supporters in the community inspired her to keep going. “This campaign was never about me becoming mayor,” she said. “It was about how we can all help make this city everything it can be, and get everybody engaged in the process of making Tacoma what we want it to be.”

Woodards was named a Pierce College Distinguished Alumna in 2015, and calls the experience a boost she will always remember. “To be recognized by Pierce College in that way really gave me strength to get through conversations in my own campaign about the fact that sometimes participation is enough,” she said. “I am so grateful to the college for giving me that opportunity.”