Imagine this. You’re a thirtysomething young professional settling into your womanhood while simultaneously juggling work, family, friends and sanity. Oh, and you’re also helping to lead the 15th largest city in the country, lending your voice, time and resources to education reform, cleaning blighted properties and preserving African American history in your city. Meet Councilwoman Jaiza Page.
To the unsuspecting eye, Page is your typical cool, could be the homie type of girl, enjoying life in her beloved city of Columbus, OH. But one quick Google search or inquiry to pretty much anyone from her hometown will quickly reveal she’s anything but typical. The daughter of Olympic gold medalist Jerry Page and a former professional football player, the 32-year-old councilwoman is quickly making a name for herself in the world of public service and beyond.
Armed with a Bachelor’s and law degree from Georgetown and The Ohio State University, respectively, and never one to shy away from pairing a suit with a pair of Chuck Taylors, the story of Jaiza Page is one of risk-taking, determination and drive. In the cutthroat world of city politics where she’s often one of the youngest and only minority females at the table, the young leader is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with and a must-have for any squad with goals of bringing about major change.
How did you know a career in public service was something you wanted to pursue?
It wasn’t something I always thought about. [Before I was appointed to City Council], I was in the Columbus City Attorney’s office where I was able to do a lot of work in the community. As I learned more about the issues and the residents concerns about their quality of life, I began to think about how I could create lasting change in the city in a different capacity. I love being a lawyer and I love being in a courtroom, but I began to realize there are a lot of meaningful things you can do in the legislative branch as a public servant and that’s what I decided to do.
Your transition to a public life, attorney to city council representative, was somewhat swift. What was that transition from a private to public life like?
Initially it was a little jarring. You go from just your friends and family knowing who you are, to all of a sudden people you’ve never met now coming up to you or waking up to find articles written about you and your life. It takes some getting used to. I would say I’m still not used to it, I’ve always shielded away from the spotlight, but I now understand it’s a part of the position I hold as an elected official. Knowing me is how people connect and know that I am tangible. The best days are when someone approaches me and says, “Hey, you voted for [X] and it’s really helped me.”
Do you believe in work/life balance? If so, tell us the million-dollar answer of how you achieve it?
I am probably the worst person to talk about that because I still haven’t figured out the balance part. [laughs] I’m working on it. Being immersed in public life very quickly, there wasn’t time for me to prepare and figure out how am I going to do this — take time off, vacation, get a consistent schedule. I’m constantly going. If I have to put in 15 hours a day to figure something out then I’m going to do that, it comes with being a public servant. You do what you have to do to get it done.
But thinking long-term, I know that’s not healthy. For me, the best thing is setting boundaries, setting your priorities and laying out a clear schedule. I live by my calendar. I even mark which days I’ll be home at a decent time. My team helps too. If you have a strong team that does their job efficiently, they’ll help you achieve that balance. But yeah, I definitely have not mastered it.
When I think about the responsibility I have to lead a City of almost 850,000 people, God is the only one that could get me here.
Is it difficult being you? Specifically, is it difficult, at times even frustrating, to be a minority working in city politics? Do you think you have to work harder to prove yourself?
Absolutely. It may partly be expectations I put on myself but there are definitely pre-conceived notions about African Americans and women that I sometimes find myself on the end of. You feel it in certain places and that’s where I make sure to be on point and disprove any of the stereotypes people may have. It doesn’t make them bad people and I try not to let it frustrate me, it just means they haven’t been exposed to someone like me.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see young African-American professionals make?
1.Not being true to themselves. 2. Being caught up in titles and not understanding or caring about the work. 3. Only associating with people they think can help them get somewhere versus making real, authentic connections. As minorities, we come from so many various, experience-rich backgrounds, that when we only congregate with people we think have “made it”, you’re unknowingly limiting how far you can go. I love to connect with people. Particularly those who are less fortunate than me, or haven’t lived the life I was afforded. If I can use my journey as an example of what happens when you work hard, I feel like I’ve done my job.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?
Work hard, be honest and get a long well with others. If you do those three things you will be successful in whatever you do.
You’re very open about the role your faith plays in your life and career. How has this helped you along your journey?
My faith has kept me grounded and has gotten me through each and every day I’ve served. Even before I applied [for the position of councilmember], I prayed about it. I wanted to make sure this was where God was leading me. When I think about the responsibility I have to lead a City of almost 850,000 people, God is the only one that could get me here. For me, knowing that something bigger than myself has put and kept me here is what keeps me going. I would not be able to perform in this position without God.
What’s next for Jaiza Page? What do the next 10-15 years look like for you?
That’s something I’m in the process of figuring out. I think there are a lot of places I can go from here. Being a councilmember has been great so far. I can do a lot of good in this position and impact a lot of lives. As I grow as an elected official, I’m looking to see where my skills and passion can best be suited to help more people. Only time will tell, and I’m okay with not having the answer right now. That’s one thing I have learned, we don’t always have to know everything right now.
The #GoalDigger series highlights fab, professional women in their ‘20s and ‘30s making major moves in their careers and communities. If you know someone you’d like to see featured, email a brief description (including age and profession) to firstname.lastname@example.org.