In a world plagued by corruption and a lack of trust in government, one woman dares to challenge the status quo by getting involved in local politics. She uncovers a web of deceit and faces unexpected obstacles in her pursuit of justice. Will she be able to bring about positive change and beat City Hall? Find out in this gripping tale of empowerment and resilience.
“You absolutely can beat City Hall. Unless if you believe you can’t beat City Hall, you will be absolutely correct, because if you don’t try, you certainly aren’t going to beat them.” – Debbie Peterson
Have you heard these common myths about getting involved in local government and creating positive change?
Myth #1: I don’t have the time or resources to make a difference.
Myth #2: Politics and government are too complicated for me to understand.
Myth #3: My voice doesn’t matter, so why bother?
Our guest Debbie Peterson will debunk these myths and share the truth about how individuals can empower themselves and contribute to positive change in their communities. Debbie is a former mayor and businesswoman turned author who utilizes her firsthand experience in political office to influence positive change. Her book, The Happiest Corruption: Sleaze, Lies and Suicide in a California Beach Town unravels her journey of unveiling corruption in an otherwise ideal community, giving readers an insightful view into public governance. As someone who doesn’t shy away from adversity, she uses her strong background in business and public relations to encourage others, especially women, to step up and take an active role in their local governments.
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Discover the crucial role women play in shaping local government and why this matters for your community.
- Unearth the often concealed reality of corruption in local politics and how it directly impacts your life.
- Learn to navigate beyond partisan divisions and find the productive middle ground for genuine civic progress.
- Understand the importance of trust and intuition when evaluating the integrity of local political figures.
- Obtain valuable tactics to engage and make a tangible impact in your local government.
Related Live. Love. Engage. episodes you may enjoy:
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00:00:00 – Gloria Grace Rand
You’re listening to the Live Love Engage podcast. On today’s show, why we need more women in local government. Stay tuned.
00:00:12 – Gloria Grace Rand
I am Gloria Grace Rand, founder of The L.O.V.E. Method and author of the number one Amazon bestseller, Live Love Engage How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Being Yourself. In this podcast, we share practical advice from a spiritual perspective on how to live fully, love deeply, and engage authentically so you can create a life and business with more impact, influence, and income. Welcome to live. Love. Engage.
00:00:46 – Gloria Grace Rand
Namaste. I am Gloria Grace Spiritual Alignment coach, and I work with women entrepreneurs to clear the inner blocks keeping you stuck so you can put yourself first and live the life you want now. And I am so excited about today’s guest because I’ve always been interested in politics, and I think it’s because even my mom even ran for the school board when I was a little girl. I remember that. And our guest today has some experience in that. She is a former mayor, businesswoman and author of the Integrity 101 series, and her name is Debbie Peterson, and her first book is called The Happiest Corruption Sleaze, Lies and Suicide in a California Beach Town. And it’s a number one bestseller, and it tells the tale of the corruption she uncovered as mayor. So I’m very interested in having her come onto the show today and talk a little bit about her experience. So I want to officially bring her on right now. Hello and Debbie, and welcome to Live Love Engage.
00:01:58 – Debbie Peterson
Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here.
00:02:01 – Gloria Grace Rand
Well, I am so curious to know about you and about what got you interested in politics, because it seems like especially it seems like over the last maybe ten years or so, it’s just gotten so well, vicious is the word coming to mind. That’s a little harsh. But let’s just say, it’s gotten to be, there’s a lot of negativity around it and so much where people do not want to work together. They’re just out for their own self-interests and not focused in on what their constituents need, shall we say. So in this kind of environment, what got you interested in running for office?
00:02:50 – Debbie Peterson
I can really relate to that question because even just now, I’m in the middle of an exchange with a friend whose political views I agree with, who’s just fixated and almost to the point of being vicious. And it seems like a lot of us are there now, and that’s painful. And I think that what people are feeling right now is, well, can’t we just talk to each other? Can’t we just disagree gracefully, graciously and respect one another? Does it have to be always so full of angst? And having said that, I’ve been dealing with some angst or was dealing with some angst. But let me start with answering your question, and it’s really wonderful that your mom ran for school board, and I hope that more women will do that, more people altogether, particularly business people. And we can talk more about why I think that or I’m suggesting that later. I got into it because I was encouraged by friends and neighbors to run. I had a background in business as an entrepreneur, and also I’d done a lot of redevelopment work and a degree in communications, primarily public relations. And that’s what people needed in my town. And so I worked on the planning commission for four years and chaired it for a couple of years. And then I moved into elected positions. I ran for city council in 2008 and 2012, I ran for mayor, and then in 2014 I ran for mayor again, and I didn’t win and then ran for county supervisor and again didn’t win and went back to the city council. And so I’ve had altogether about 15 years. And my motivation was not politics. I’ve always hated politics. And I have to say I really still hate politics. I don’t do politics well. And what I really want to do is to get things done and to serve the community and to make the world a better place. And that sounds like unicorns and butterflies, but that’s where I’m coming from. And so if we want to have people who are serving the interests of the people they serve and not serving themselves, you probably want people who are a little idealistic and who believe in the principles and really practice those principles that run behind the United States Constitution.
00:05:06 – Gloria Grace Rand
I’m so glad that you did that. And it’s funny, as you were talking, I’m thinking that part of the problem perhaps has been that we’re focused in on politics as opposed to governing. What do you see is, like, the difference between the two?
00:05:25 – Debbie Peterson
Well, good governance is about good management. It’s about being good stewards of the money that we are all paying in to provide public services, primarily safety and infrastructure, roads and bridges and sewer systems. And good governance is about good stewardship of those on behalf of the community in which you live. Politics is party, and I think that’s what I struggle with so much. I think I truly think that one of the worst things we could possibly have done to one another is to polarize on parties and polarize on opinions and stop looking at how we can make things better for everybody and serve the community and looking only at politics. So I think that politics are actually quite harmful, and I would rather see us working together to make things work that I believe was the original objective. And I think that those views are when I read my history, those views are shared by the founders of our country as well.
00:06:27 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, I agree. And at the same time, I can’t help but think that in the environment we’re in right now, in this sort of caustic environment, what would you say to someone how can you encourage them to still be able to take part in governance, to be able to help out their communities, in particular women? Why would it be good for a woman to get involved?
00:06:57 – Debbie Peterson
I agree that it is caustic, and that really comes home to us a lot. On the other hand, being in local government was so much fun, and it was so rewarding because we could do good things. And I met people I would never have met. I worked with people I never thought I would work with. And it, for me, was really heartwarming and rewarding. There’s one really very simple, straightforward reason I find myself asking people, why have we allowed this? Why is it that in our country, 28% of the elected representatives are women, and we’re allowing that. We are 51% of the population. Why aren’t we represented? Why aren’t the gifts that we bring to the table at that table? And that’s the first one. Let’s talk equality. We’re talking equality. We’re talking Black History Month. But black women are equally as discriminated against as any color of woman. And that’s a really scary thing to me, that we’ve given everybody their rights except women. Everybody. We talk about representation. We’re not talking really about women. And when the United Nations started doing studies, happiness studies, because they determined that the single most important thing in peace and in not having corruption and they all work together is happiness. And if you think about it, it really is women who care about happiness and bring happiness, but when they poll all of the nations, it’s everybody who cares about that happiness. And so I always joke and say, well, we had more women. At least half the population would be happier, but the reality is all of us would be happier, and we’re always happier when we’re represented.
00:08:48 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, absolutely. And I think I used to have a T-shirt that said, if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. And I think, right. Yeah. I want to put this point out there, too, because I think it’s important. I was just reading a book recently. It’s called the woman who would not be silenced. And it reminded me one of the points they put in there at the end. This was about the rights, or should I say the lack of rights that married women had in the 19th century and frankly, that still didn’t have in the 20th century and that it was still as late as the early 1970s when a married woman could not open up, I think could not get a credit card without her husband’s Okay, her husband’s signature on that.
00:09:43 – Debbie Peterson
And they couldn’t get a mortgage. I’m a real estate broker. They couldn’t get a mortgage.
00:09:47 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah. And that’s only 50 years ago, roughly, folks. So we still have a long way to go, baby, as the old cigarette commercial, I think, used to say. Let me ask you about this, especially with being involved in local politics. And I’m glad that you pointed out the positive aspects of it, the fun, I think that’s so important. But what’s been the biggest challenge that you faced when you were involved in politics? And I guess you still maybe still are a little bit, right.
00:10:20 – Debbie Peterson
My commitment right now is to help people understand what happens when they don’t pay attention and then to equip them to pay attention. How do you do that effectively, efficiently, use your time well to make a difference? And the biggest surprise I encountered was corruption. And I hadn’t expected it. I live in an idyllic little community. People are delightful here. They’re one of the most charitable communities in the world sorry, in the United States. And people are happy. Oprah called us the happiest, our county seat, the happiest city in America in 2011. And that’s why I called my book I wrote a book about all of this called The Happiest Corruption. And that’s why, because we were both very happy and incredibly corrupt. And that’s something that can be documented. The FBI says so. It’s there in black and white, and we’re still being investigated. And so because I had a business background and this is one reason why I recommend business people, I also recommend women for this reason, because I had a business background, because I didn’t play in the old boys club. I didn’t know how to play in it. I never have. I just do my thing. And that’s what most women do. For those reasons, I was able to spot corruption and speak to it and work with people to correct it. And what I found is the people in government who were working with me to fix the corruption, the people on boards who were making a difference, it was the women. And we brought the men with us to correct corruption. It was actually pretty equal in terms of that. Probably 200 people I worked closely with on all of it was equally equal, men and women. And we were so incredibly diverse. And that’s been one of my great joys of being in local government, is being able to work with people who are so incredibly different, and yet we love each other because we have one common goal. We just want good government. And we see that over and above our party or our politics or our religion or our color or our gender. And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. So I’ve kind of gone on in a long answer. But the most difficult problem I found was corruption.
00:12:29 – Gloria Grace Rand
So what prompted you to then write a book about that?
00:12:33 – Debbie Peterson
We managed to do quite a lot of things, but we didn’t fix it all. And we even brought in the United States top corruption investigator. I brought in Carl Knutson, who is the guy who brought down the Colombian cartels that were money laundering. He’s the guy who brought down Oliver North and Noriega and all of that arms dealing and drugs trading that happened, and we brought him into the county. And every time I speak to him still, even years after he’s done a couple of good investigations, he’s still angry because it’s still not fixed. And when you find someone of that caliber who’s seen corruption on an international scale and they’re angry about what’s happening, you know it’s bad. So, we’re not done yet. And I reached the stage where I simply could do no more by sitting on a city council where almost every decision that came past us had some level of dishonesty or misrepresentation. And I didn’t feel I could sanction that board anymore by continuing to, or not continuing, but I would have been continuing to pretend that what they were doing was okay, and much of it was simply not okay. So I realized that having a degree in journalism or communications, that it was going to have to be the power of a pen. And I was going to write about it and I was going to tell the story and pray that people in my county would get it and that it could change things because it is for the better. But also that if not, at least perhaps I could keep the authorities looking at it and trying to get to the bottom of it and prosecuting it, keep their eye on the ball, and then also help other people know how to make sure their cities aren’t the next happiest corruption. So I could teach them what I had learned about how to effectively address your city council as a city council member, what really is integrity in office, what’s that all about, and how do you do that? And so I want to teach both sides of the dais there so that we can work better together.
00:14:33 – Gloria Grace Rand
Well, that was a perfect segue, because that’s what I was going to ask you next, is let’s say someone out there is listening and is feeling inspired, and they want to start exploring getting involved in politics. What would you say to them to be on the lookout for when it comes to corruption? What should they be watching for?
00:14:52 – Debbie Peterson
Well, the first thing I would say is that there are some communities. I heard the other day from a friend who had experienced an amazing community in Delaware. I have another friend who says Massachusetts is amazing. And I think it’s because they still go back to some of those colonial values where they first started. So first I’m going to say that there are some places that do it really well, and you need to be involved there too. You need to be involved, period. It’s not about you get involved just for the corruption. But if you have the sense that maybe people aren’t being served as they should be, that people are suffering perhaps in ways they needn’t, it may be that the money is not there to do the things that need to be done because it’s going in the wrong places. And I always say to people, the smell test is number one. There’s a really recent psychological study, and I do a little blog for Psychology Today, and there’s a really recent study that says that if you can look at a photo that 70% of us will identify just looking at someone’s face in a photograph, which ones of the people in the photographs were breaking the Fair Political Practices Act? Now, that’s not murder. It’s not sexual abuse. It is simply are you not correctly reporting your financial situation? Are you double dealing, self dealing? So it’s some of the smaller infractions. But even so, 70% of us could identify those people who were and when they took it across a whole group of people, the accuracy was even greater. And so I say, trust your gut, trust your eyes. There are some people who’ve told me, I looked at that person, I knew right away they were corrupt. Well, I don’t have that. I see it different ways. I really don’t have that. And so I think that if you have that gift, use it at least as an indicator that you could get searched. So that’s really simple. Trust your gut. But you have to go. You have to show up. You can’t look at the picture if you’re not in front of it. So you do have to show up first.
00:16:58 – Gloria Grace Rand
And I do think that is an advantage for women, is that we not always, but I would say more likely to be able to lean into our intuition and we do pay attention to it a little bit more. So that would behoove more women to get into politics, to be able to well, not politics, government.
00:17:21 – Debbie Peterson
We would all benefit from that. And there are other traits that we have as women, as a rule. Generally, we tend to compat more than we compete, and there’s nothing we need more right now than being able to work together to solve problems rather than to keep polarizing. Polarizing is the worst thing you can do. I know that as a real estate broker, you can’t get anything done when you’re polarized.
00:17:43 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, that’s for sure. What is a commonly held belief about government, let’s say, or local politics, even using that word again that you passionately disagree with?
00:17:58 – Debbie Peterson
Ask me that one again.
00:18:01 – Gloria Grace Rand
What’s a commonly held belief that people have when it comes to, let’s say, even running for office, maybe even that you passionately disagree with?
00:18:10 – Debbie Peterson
You can’t beat City Hall. You absolutely can beat City Hall. And unless if you believe you can’t beat City Hall, you will be absolutely correct, because if you don’t try, you certainly aren’t going to beat them. But that’s the one that I and that will be the subtitle of the next book that’s coming out in a couple of months is going to be We the People 101. I’ve just completed City Council 101, and We the People 101 subtitle is How to Beat City Hall.
00:18:38 – Gloria Grace Rand
Very good. Oh, cool. I look forward to that. So is this part of this Integrity 101 series, then, I gather?
00:18:46 – Debbie Peterson
Yeah, I decided not long ago, on the advice of Jack Canfield, the Chicken Soup for the Soul, who writes stories that make the world a better place. And he said, you know, Debbie, everything you’re doing is about truth. It’s about integrity, and why don’t you start doing an Integrity 101 series? And I thought, well, it’s true. The books that I’ve got coming out, they are all about integrity and integrity and the things that you learn about accountability and local government. They apply across the board, they apply to nonprofits, they apply to business, and they’re teaching and practices that work better everywhere. And so I’ve got the books coming through City Count sorry, Integrity 101. And then I also have an online course called Double Dais Adventures in Local Government. And that’s for all of us to work together on both sides of that dais.
00:19:44 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:19:44 – Debbie Peterson
And that’s under the same banner.
00:19:46 – Gloria Grace Rand
Awesome. I’m going to change gears just slightly, but maybe not depending on what your answer is. But I love asking my guests this because I do get a range of answers. So what are you curious about right now?
00:20:01 – Debbie Peterson
Oh, wow. Yeah, you didn’t give any warning on that one, so that’s good because then I have to… What am I curious about? I guess honestly? Well, yeah, I’m curious about the psychology of what makes us do what we do and what helps us do it better. Because I feel like if we understand ourselves and we understand the psychology, we’re more successful in those things. So I think the thing I’m always curious about is what makes people tick? And then how do you work with that to have a psychologically? How do we have a psychologically healthy country? And what does a psychologically healthy country look like? And what are psychologically healthy or not healthy representatives and members of the public lead of people really embracing? What does that look like and how do you identify that, and how do you get from where we are now to there?
00:21:03 – Gloria Grace Rand
I like that. That is a good question to ask.
00:21:07 – Debbie Peterson
Yes, it is.
00:21:09 – Gloria Grace Rand
Encourage people to think about that and maybe try to figure out how they can do something about it in their own local area.
00:21:17 – Debbie Peterson
Yeah. And I think one of the amazingly wonderful things about being We the People is that we are all different. We all have different gifts. If there’s something that you’re curious about that’s really important in your community, some of you just show up. All that need. We need bodies in seats to say, yes, we care. Yes, we’re paying attention. Yes, we want to be represented. And some people will go speak, and some people will run for office, and some people will call other people and some people will talk to their neighbors and we all have different gifts and abilities. And that’s the beauty of the whole curiosity thing because if we can identify what those strengths are, then we use those in the best interests of our community.
00:22:01 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, this just occurred to me because I’m thinking back of different things that I’d done. I mentioned at the outset that I remember that my mom had run for the school board and I’ve never really entertained thoughts of it myself. But what I have done is I have volunteered for different campaigns in my local area and helping people to run for office. So I’ve done that. I’ve made phone calls and that kind of thing. If you had a piece of advice for someone who is interested in perhaps wanting to get involved, what would you say would be the first thing that they should do?
00:22:38 – Debbie Peterson
The first thing to do is to find out what’s going on. And that is one of the reasons it’s so much fun to be involved, is that you always know what’s going on and it’s easy to do. Most city councils now, or county boards of supervisors have everything online so you can find out when their meetings are. Go to a meeting, go to a few meetings and then you’ll meet the other people who are interested involved. Or you can bring people with you who, you know, share your values and that would be the first thing. Start reading the agendas, start reading the reports, go to the meetings, figure out what’s going on and once you have a little bit clearer feel of that, you’ll know where you should go next.
00:23:16 – Gloria Grace Rand
Excellent advice. I appreciate that. And I know I’ve thought about that over the years. I would say the closest I came to that was I did serve on my local homeowners’ association board.
00:23:31 – Debbie Peterson
Honestly, I’ve served on HOAs and I’ve been a real estate broker, so I’ve known about a lot of them over the years. I think that’s actually sometimes worse and harder.
00:23:43 – Gloria Grace Rand
When you upset people and they get really vocal about.
00:23:47 – Debbie Peterson
And it’s very similar though, because it is also regulated by government agencies. There are rules and regulations, bylaws and it needs to be transparent in all the same ways. That’s a good place to start, but it might turn you off.
00:24:06 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, I agree. Is there anything else that I should have asked you about that I haven’t that you’d like to or any other piece of advice you’d like to share with our listeners before we end today?
00:24:17 – Debbie Peterson
The thing that I am so passionate about is that we really are a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and nobody else is responsible for it and nobody else owns it. We do. It’s our government. And so if there’s any part of it that you aren’t happy with, it belongs to you. Go in and fix it. Go in and make it better. And I think the whole “we the people” concept is incredibly important, and we lose track of the fact that we are accountable for our government. It does belong to us.
00:24:50 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, that’s true. And that’s why I get perturbed sometimes when I hear people that don’t bother to vote. And I vote even in the local elections, even if it’s not, because I know, of course, national elections, people get excited and they go out and vote, and then the local ones, they don’t so much. But things start at the local level. That’s where you should almost spend more of your time making sure you go out to the local elections. What do you think?
00:25:18 – Debbie Peterson
You said it for me. Thank you. Yes. If you start local, if you think about it, your local and you may not know this, but your local mayor is in touch, and your council members are in touch with the people up the line, and because the people up the line need to understand how to represent you. And so if you are going at a local level and saying, okay, we elected you now we served for your campaign, now here’s what we need, here’s what we want, here’s how we feel, here’s how it is on our street. If you start local, you’ll be able to find the people with the integrity, and you’ll be heard up the line.
00:25:53 – Gloria Grace Rand
Wonderful. One other thing I wanted to ask, because I’m sure people listening to this will want to perhaps get your book, and I think you also have a free offer as well. So wondering if you could share how people can get in touch with you.
00:26:09 – Debbie Peterson
Yeah. If there was anything today that resonated with you or you’re interested in exploring being a city council member and just understanding the system. I do just for listeners today. I don’t give this to anybody else except for one other book I wrote. It’s an offer in the book, but if you go to Citygov 101 dot Com, citygov101.com, there is a free offer for the book I was discussing City Council 101. And if you buy it, it’s going to cost you, I think, $9.99 for the paperback, $7.99 for Kindle, so you can get that for free. And the only thing I ask is that you read it and that you take some kind of action, and there are other links in there for other books and my online course, and you can go to Debbiepeterson.com if you forget the other link and pretty much everything we’ve talked about and some other resources are there at debbiepeterson.com.
00:27:06 – Gloria Grace Rand
All right, wonderful. Well, I will be sure and have all of that information in the show notes. So in case you are listening to this and somewhere where maybe you’re at the gym right now, you can go back to Liveloveengagepodcast.com and check out this episode, and then you’ll be able to find all that information there. So thank you so much for spending some of your time with us today. And I was right. I knew it was going to be a really good conversation and I enjoyed it. And I know you shared some excellent advice for our listeners and the viewers out there on YouTube as well.
00:27:39 – Debbie Peterson
Thank you, Gloria. It was a joy. Thank you very much.
00:27:42 – Gloria Grace Rand
And I do want to also extend a word of thanks to all of you for watching and for listening today. I really appreciate all of you and encourage you to subscribe if you’re not subscribed already on your favorite podcast platform, and if you receive some value from this episode today to please tell a friend about it, share it with them, share it on social media, all that good stuff. And until next time, as always, I encourage you to go out and live fully, love deeply, and engage authentically.
00:28:17 – Gloria Grace Rand
Did you know that a majority of entrepreneurs tend to discount the importance of their work and a good number feel their success is simply due to luck? I know from personal experience that self-doubt can keep you from having the kind of life and business you desire. That’s why I’ve created a free guide called Uniquely You. How to move from self-doubt to self-love in four simple steps. To claim your free guide, go to liveloveengage.Gift that’s live love engage dot g-i-f-t.