A Promising Queens Pol Chooses Family Over Career

A Personal Perspective

Last week, something almost extraordinary happened right here in Queens: a promising politician announced that she will not seek reelection this fall.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland sent shockwaves throughout New York with her announcement. It is very rare for a politician to give up a seat while in the prime of his/her career as is the case with Ferreras-Copeland. The last one to do so was Mike Cohen, who gave up his state Senate seat about 12 years ago when his wife became ill.

It is even more surprising for Ferreras-Copeland, given that she was at the top of many lists to be the next City Council speaker when Melissa Mark-Viverito is termed out at the end of this year.

Not only is the Jackson Heights-based Ferreras-Copeland politically savvy, she is well liked in her district, in the council and by practically everyone who knows her. So what gives?

This writer has to admit to more than a little disappointment at the reported reason for Ferreras-Copeland giving up her career with plans to leave New York, where she might have had a long and interesting career in politics.

But she has instead chosen her family over her career. At first, it sounded so old fashioned that most women were wondering, “Why is it always the woman who has to sacrifice her career for the family?”

But while some would rather face the gallows than give up a thriving career, it still makes sense for some women to choose family over job, especially if their spouse is able to afford to take care of the family on his salary alone. But there’s more to a woman’s life than her husband’s income.

A woman also wants to have professional fulfillment and is empowered to be a co-earner. And then you realize Ferreras-Copeland is not necessarily giving up working—she’s just giving up her council seat to move to another state where her husband’s career is based.

Reports are that he is (literally) a rocket scientist and his job keeps the family apart. Politics requires an inordinate amount of time and the couple has a small child for whom they care.

This family has made the difficult decision to give up one career for now, so that they can all be together in the same home in the same state. There is an old saying that, at the end of life, no one has ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Rather, they are more inclined to wish they had spent more time with family.

Councilwoman Ferreras-Copland has made the best decision she could for her family and no one should judge or condemn her for that. Political candidates come and goes, but a mother’s responsibility to her child is the most important one of all.

And let’s face it, even if she had stayed for another term and received the votes from her colleagues to become speaker, it would only have been for another four years. Then what? None of our previous council speakers went on to higher political office.

All three termed out thus far have run for mayor and lost: Peter Vallone, Sr., Gifford Miller, the young, dynamic speaker who succeeded him; and Christine Quinn, who succeeded Miller. All failed to make a dent in their respective mayoral races. The current speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, will be termed out at the end of this year and she has nowhere else to go in politics right now. So, kudos to Ferreras-Copeland for seeing the writing on the wall and choosing family over politics.

She will be just fine and will build a new life and career elsewhere, whether it’s in politics or not. And, in the end, she will enjoy the best reward of all—creating a home where her child will have access to both parents all the time.

Politics can’t beat that.

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