An Interview with Katie Nash and John Funderburk
(note: interviews were edited for length and clarity)
Cowork Frederick is not just a place to park your laptop, it’s a place where you come to learn, grow, and build relationships. It’s easy to meet for a collaboration session in the community room or enjoy a lunch chat on the sunny outdoor patio. The members here represent a variety of disciplines and ambitions, from freelance writing to behavioral therapy, to local politics.
Over the last few months, we shed light on the entrepreneurial journeys of three members: Matt Johnston, Wayne Dorsey, and Derrick Miller. In this blog, we talk to Cowork Frederick members, Katie Nash and John Funderburk about their lessons learned on the campaign trail.
In November 2021 Katie became the Democratic Alderwoman and President Pro Tem for the City of Frederick. She is also a community advocate, business owner, and parent-educator. John is a business owner, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a father to five children. He ran for mayor in 2021.
What did Katie and John learn about themselves and others while they were running for office? How can their experiences on the campaign trail benefit the community at large? We sat down with Katie and John to learn more.
“The pandemic taught us that things that might seem small really do contribute
to our mental and physical well-being.
So just being open is a huge part of
being on the campaign trail.”
– Katie Nash
Let’s jump right in.
What life lessons did campaigning for office teach you?
Katie: We had to be willing to be flexible. We had to pivot in order to get to people and get the message out. Learning patience is a crucial part of the process. Maybe you’re tired at the end of the day, but you have to put that aside because people are trying to communicate their needs and concerns to you. The pandemic taught us that things that might seem small really do contribute to our mental and physical well-being. So just being open is a huge part of being on the campaign trail.
John: Someone said to be successful in life you always have to be “selling,” I mean, even when you’re dating you’re trying to position your best self and you’re trying to present your ideas. Understanding communication, understanding how people perceive me, understanding how to present myself in the best light, and learning how to crystalize my thoughts in a very effective way. Campaigning is like working in a laboratory, you are doing experiments on how to get your message out, and then listening to how people respond to your message.
“I’m learning how to listen more and not be so quick to express my thoughts as soon as they pop into my head. I learned how to take a moment before I respond so that people can feel heard.”
– John Funderburk
Karina Lissette, photographer
Do you feel you learned to communicate more effectively with others?
Katie: We certainly had to get creative with how we communicated with folks. In the past people expected you to come to their door, but a lot of people weren’t comfortable with that. We had to work to meet people where they were. I was on the phone a lot and I would end up talking to people about their specific issues. But a lot of times, I was talking to them about how they were doing and what was going on in their neighborhood. It was just about connecting with people.
At the local level, we are very focused on issues that impact people’s daily lives. And so you really need to check your privilege and be very aware that what is happening in your life is not necessarily what’s happening in others. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives. You just have to come at it every day with a fresh, empathetic, and open approach.
John: I’m learning how to listen more and not be so quick to express my thoughts as soon as they pop into my head. I learned how to take a moment before I respond so that people can feel heard.
Secondly, just slow down. Sometimes I get so excited that my thoughts can go a mile a minute, but it can make it hard to comprehend what I’m saying. So I watched seasoned professionals so I could learn how they debate, how they pace themselves, and how effective they were in communicating with others.
What have you learned about managing stress?
Katie: At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to learn how to recreate self-care activities at home. Over time, I realized that I had to have a very regimented routine to keep myself grounded. I try to not work on Sunday, which is a self-care thing. I try not to look at electronic devices or answer emails on Sundays. I’m off my phone as much as I can be. It helps me to decompress, clear my mind, and be present with my family.
John: I manage my stress by controlling my expectations. I learned that I can’t expect everyone to follow through 100%. Because people are just people. Actually one of the most important lessons I learned was from my eight-year-old daughter. She’s so smart emotionally. If I tell her to do something she’ll just do something else. She won’t say “no daddy” right away. She’ll look at me and smile and then she’ll try to do it anyway. So if someone is telling me that I’m not capable of doing something, I just do it anyway.
How do you deal with criticism and feedback, especially from people who disagree with you?
Katie: I try to approach it from the spirit of optimism, and willingness to learn. I’m very disciplined about what I engage with on social media. There was some point at which I just said, if I’m not contributing something positive or uplifting, I’m not putting it on Facebook. But I also realized that most of the criticism on social media isn’t necessarily a criticism of me, but of a policy or something else. There was one person criticizing the weekly report that I was posting. But when you got down to it they had some ideas on how to make it better.
John: You just have to be consistent. I try to overwhelm them with my work ethic. I’m a relentless person. I’m just trying to do the best job that I can and see where the cards fall. Criticism is a motivation for me. I can’t allow other people’s emotional feelings to dictate the direction of my life.
Any other lessons learned advice or experiences you’d like to share?
Katie: Wherever I talked to someone their number one concern was not for themselves, but for someone else. I talked to someone who’s going through unemployment and she was deeply concerned about the elderly getting access to vaccines. Most people were willing to say yes I’m going to do the right thing for others. Even when someone had a specific concern about something in their neighborhood, that was impacting them, it was from a place of concern for others. People would say I’m concerned about this traffic because I see kids playing outside, and I worry for their safety. Overwhelmingly when I was talking to folks, it was a concern for the greater community. It was very affirming.
John: I thought if I’m gonna be a business I need to be able to reduce my overhead and to keep myself current, so I learned how to build websites and market myself. I really try to work smarter not harder. Yeah, I am always trying to outthink my opponent when I’m talking with them. I’m always thinking of what my next strategy will be.
I grew up in Washington D.C. during a tumultuous time. But I was able to stay clean and stay on the right path. It was hard, but I’m from a good family, so that helped. My experiences taught me not to be scared but to stand up for myself. I learned how to handle myself in any situation, no matter what that may be.
“Wherever I talked to someone, their number one concern was not for themselves, but for someone else.”
– Katie Nash
Running for local government is more about giving of yourself than it is about gaining power. It’s about wanting to do what’s right for the people in your community. Katie and John learned how to overcome personal, professional, and political obstacles. They also learned how to be open and empathetic when they listen to others Most of all, they learned the importance of serving their communities with openness and understanding. Which is a trait we can all take with us as we navigate our work, our communities, and beyond.
About Cowork Frederick
Cowork Frederick’s mission is to be a catalyst for the success of freelancers, teleworkers and entrepreneurs by creating ways for them to come together to work, share ideas, and support each other. Our diverse coworking community consists of people from a variety of backgrounds and professions, for-profits and not-for-profits. We provide a work-friendly environment, meeting rooms, high-speed internet, and the usual office amenities at an affordable price. More important, members of our coworking community benefit from a support infrastructure, a chance to connect with and help others, and a place to belong. For many, it’s just a better way to work.