Getting To Know Community Action’s Deputy Director, Mary Watts

How did you learn about Community Action Partnership (CAP)?

Before CAP Sonoma, I was educating students in the Roseland School District about health and wellness, specifically about the impacts of bottled water. I then became connected to CAP Sonoma through the Water Department of Sonoma County.

How do you connect to CAP’s mission?

I connect well to CAP’s mission statement because of my upbringing. My mom paved the path for me to continue on to higher education although it wasn’t the obvious path for other members of my family. Although she was singled out by other members of our family, my mom knew that in order to break the cycle of poverty my family had entered, it was vital for her and I to continue on to college and graduate. Because I had seen both sides, I knew school readiness and having access to adequate education services is essential to breaking the cycle. Because of this I have a strong passion for providing school readiness for low income families, I believe in CAP’s mission statement and I think we can change the system through our programs. We are a part of a national network and I advocate for larger changes through our government in the education system. I like to see these larger changes impact the families and community surrounding me. Every decision made by the government trickles down into the homes of our neighbors and friends. This is why I am able to connect to CAP’s mission, it is so important to me on a personal and professional level.

What do you enjoy doing for fun in Sonoma County?

We have a strong sense of community here in Sonoma County, you could literally fill your entire calendar with events hosted by the community, I think that’s a big part of what makes Sonoma County different from other places in California. I also found myself drawn to the natural beauty that Sonoma has to offer, and could really picture myself raising a family here. I want to be able to give my future children and the rest of my family a better quality of life and I truly believe Sonoma County is the place to do that. Although the housing market is skyrocketing in Santa Rosa, I truly believe it is worth the fight.

My absolute favorite event we have is the Wednesday Night Market in Downtown Santa Rosa. It is a great opportunity to see different cultural performances, artists in their element with their crafts, and congregate with the community in the heart of the city. Whenever I go I have my usual routine, I will start with dinner, and continue looking through the different booths and continue on by purchasing fresh vegetables from the local venders. Every year I see the crowd becoming more involved and political activists and groups coming to share their messages. I love being a part of a community that can come together at the end of the night that shares and can bond over a community event like this.

What is it like to be the deputy director?

I am able to see a lot of growth as a result of the changes we are able to accomplish through the programs. Although this position comes with a lot of responsibility, I thrive off of the reward it gives me, and I find it very empowering and humbling to explore how everything we do impacts someone’s life, I am also receiving a lot of love and acceptance as I have transitioned into this role, plus its very fulfilling to use my masters’ degree in Public Administration.

This year I was selected to be the “Young Democrat of the Year in Sonoma County” and my speech examined being a young woman in my position. Sexism exists everywhere although it might be hard to see it in a place like Sonoma County since we live in this sort of bubble. I go on to explain that women want to be in the workplace and others should too since it boosts the economy. It is a known fact that women are payed less than their male counterparts but I encourage other women to fight for what they deserve. Women like my single mother, Susan Cooper, and Marta Tilling all inspire me to be an example of a woman in this non-profit world. What I want other women to know is that it is okay to be vocal and to stand up for yourself, know your worth, you have a voice and you should use it. I feel so privileged to be able to be a part of an agency that fosters female leadership, and I have evolved into being a stronger feminist because I have been surrounded by other strong women.