Successful Meetings: After working in the event planning field for several years, you have thrown your hat into local politics. Why?
Jenna Linnekens: I decided to run for City Council after seeing Santa Monica change over the years to the point where I started to feel unsafe. There were people sleeping in the alley by my house and there were people popping out from nowhere while I walked my dog, along with other incidents.
I noticed that area residents were saying that things had become unacceptable, but no one was listening. Shortly after that, I received a survey asking me to list my top five concerns for Santa Monica. After that, I spoke at a city council meeting and my husband said that I should run for office.
SM: What connections are there between the meetings industry and politics?
JL: Because Santa Monica gets a lot of tourism, someone with unique insight into that field is critical. There's no one on the council currently who would know what meeting planners are looking for, from the fun stuff down to their basic concerns, such as safety and cleanliness.
Our convention center has been overlooked by the City Council for the last 18 years, and it's not up-to-date—technologically or structurally—in a way that would be satisfying to meeting planners. We need to focus on our center because it could be a landmark facility that draws people here. Also, we have beautiful hotels but not enough corporate group business.
SM: If you win, will you continue working in the events field, or become a full-time politician?
JL: City Council is a part-time job so I will continue doing what I love. We're in a world of multitasking, and doing good for my industry as well as standing up for what I believe in gives me the charge to keep going.
As for future ambitions, a Council term is four years, so I have not yet considered where I'd want to go afterward. And if I don't win, I plan to write initiatives for the next ballot that would support my platforms. But I am in this to win it.
*For information on Linnekens' platform and her campaign, go to www.votejenna.com.