City Council candidate Teresa Mosqueda on leadership: ‘I’ve worked with people I don’t agree with every day, but I try to find common ground’

The people running for office this November have lots of policy ideas for Seattle. But how would they actually learn and lead? Nine Evergrey readers sat down with them to find out in a project we’re calling The Evergrey Leadership Lab.

First-time Seattle City Council candidate Teresa Mosqueda is the political and strategic campaign director for the Washington Labor Council, AFL-CIO. She is running against housing advocate Jon Grant for Position 8, a citywide office.

We asked each candidate, “What are you still learning about being a leader?”


Our takeaways from talking with Teresa:

1. She wants to find consensus, but won’t compromise on her values.

“I think that the conversations that I’ve had, I’ve always tried to look for where there’s commonality. Even people who are very concerned about change, what I hear from them is not necessarily is not objection to change, it’s that their voice is not being heard and that our neighborhoods are more than where we live, it’s our identity… As change occurs though, people just want to see their voices being heard and that they have someone to talk to. For small businesses to large, from neighborhoods to folks who want to see development and mass transit, I think there is commonality and I’m just trying to have conversations with folks and ask them what they think.”

2. She finds that consensus by looking for commonalities.

“I am interested in making progressive change and I have done that by pushing the ball forward, by making changes that significantly impact people. But I don’t do that by compromising on my values…In one of our earlier forums, Jon and I were asked, do you pledge not to work with five of the nine corporate council members, and I said, ‘No, that’s not how you make good governance.’ Five out of nine is the majority. You have to be able to work with people to get things done. I’ve worked with people I don’t agree with every day, but I try to find common ground. Maybe you’re a legislator who voted against my bill, but I’m still coming to talk with you about the next bill because that’s why it’s important to keep relationships and be honest and have integrity. In Olympia, in city council, your word is your only currency sometimes. I want to be able to keep relationships even if people disagree with me so that hopefully we move them to more progressive places or get more consensus later on. It’s not about going along to get along, but it’s about good governance.”

Here’s what The Evergrey Leadership Lab interviewers thought of the conversation:

Elliott Bronstein:

Teresa Mosqueda spoke wisely and thoughtfully about how building relationships – even with people diametrically opposed to your positions – pays off over time. Over the next four years, Seattle City Council is going to benefit from people who know how to listen, learn, and keep moving forward.

Rachael Ludwick:

I went into this interview with a strongly positive opinion for Mosqueda (and almost certain to vote for her). I came out still pretty positive though I think maybe more realistically so. Mosqueda rightly touts her long history of working on major legislation. What we tried to dig into was how that process went, maybe even more than Grant, she tended to get into the details of legislation and the outcomes, as opposed to the process. We never really got into a moment where she felt like it was failing or she felt it would give up. We closed with a question about what aspect of leadership she’s still working on. I had thought Grant going into the issue of him being a white-straight-man and being unaware of how he’s impacting people, etc. and still working on that was kind of a “gimme” (though kudos to him for bringing it up). Mosqueda brought up one that was interesting and unexpected to me. She mentioned the tendency toward absolutism and divisiveness and her concern that she could add fuel to the fire. She mentioned that she doesn’t believe in writing proposals for laws before talking to people, but that even with that she has become aware how she can add to it. There’s not really a firm take away or conclusion here, but it just wasn’t something I’d expected her to answer with as a thing she’s working on in terms of leadership style as her public persona is so clearly aimed at coalition building.

Eric Svaren:

Teresa Mosqueda has worked in policy circles for years and, like Lorena González, seemed to be an experienced dealmaker, undaunted by working with groups with opposing agendas and proposals. We will need those skills on the council. Like Durkan and González, she struck me as having a lot of patience, working issues over many years. However, I did not get a sense from her that she’s had the experience of failure or being attacked. Those things happen to all leaders, elected and otherwise, and it’s essential for leaders to be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on. I wanted to hear about an experience like that from Teresa in order to gauge her resilience and self-awareness, but we could not elicit one from her.

Austin Valeske:

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Curious how the rest of the conversation went? Check out our whole interview with Teresa here:

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Thanks to Teresa Mosqueda and her staff for making the time to chat with us, and to Evergrey Leadership Lab interviewers Elliott Bronstein, Rachael Ludwick, Eric Svaren, and Austin Valeske.