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Rudiak Says She Is ‘Burned Out,’ But Hopes More Women Will Run For Office

Margaret Sun
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak at her office on Monday, March 20, 2017.

After eight years on Pittsburgh City Council, Natalia Rudiak said she is “a bit burned out.”

“I'm looking forward to really spending some time on some self-care and spending some time with my family,” she said.

Rudiak’s mother, who passed away 18 months ago, was originally from Poland – where the councilwoman still has family.

“I spent my summers there as a child," she said, "and so I'd like to go reconnect there and travel a little while."

Rudiak, 37, who has represented the city’s southern neighborhoods in District 4 since 2009, called herself “passionate.” That passion, she said, is partly why she won’t be seeking a third term.

Two would-be successors are on the ballot in the May 16 Democratic primary: Anthony Coghill, a roofing company owner and chairman of the 19th Ward Democratic Committee, and Ashleigh Deemer, Rudiak’s chief of staff.

Though she’s stepping away from politics now, Rudiak said she’s not leaving it altogether.

“I still care deeply and I will always care deeply and passionately about the communities that I've served in the city at large and (care deeply about) this country,” she said.

And she said she hopes to see more women running for office.

“We’re 51 percent of the population gosh darn, we should all be running to that end,” she said.

The Women’s March on Jan. 21, brought nationwide attention to the call for more women to seek elected office, and Rudiak said she’s pleased by the increased interest.

“I spoke at Chatham University,” she said. “They have a ‘ready to run’ program every February. And typically they have about 60 participants every session and this year they had over 160.”

But she advised female candidates to get involved in their communities. She spent two years immersing herself in the District 4 neighborhoods before running.

“I always encourage people to get to know their community leaders and community organizations and embed themselves in the community and really make themselves indispensable to the community,” she said.

In her final nine months in office, Rudiak said she’s trying “to cram in as much as she can.”

Her priorities including making sure all children in the city have access to free or affordable Pre-K education and focusing on the heroin epidemic.

“My district is ground zero in Allegheny County for heroin overdoses in the entire county,” she said.   

Rudiak said many sectors are trying to ease the opioid crisis, from law enforcement to the Health Department, to human services agencies. But she said she thinks the problem can be tackled at the neighborhood level.

“We need to start really channeling that into neighborhood-specific efforts, because … the crimes are related to heroin use,” she said. “Whether it's child neglect, whether it's theft from auto, whether it's burglary, whether it's prostitution, it all centers around heroin.”