The Washington, DC area is full of amazing moms. There are working moms, stay-at-home moms, single moms, moms of multiples, foster moms, adoptive moms, etc. We want to highlight some of those moms like Bridget Shea Westfall! Each month we will feature one special mom as the Mom of the Month. Know a fellow amazing local mom here? Nominate them here!
Meet our March Mom of the Month: Bridget Shea Westfall
Bridget Shea Westfall is a supervisor in the federal government at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she works at the agency responsible for children and families in the grants office. Bridget has served in the federal government for 18 years, starting her career as a Presidential Fellow in 2005.
Bridget is a mother of two boys, Jameson and Patrick who are students in Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, a partner to Rick, and a community volunteer. You can find her on the soccer or lacrosse fields, basketball and tennis courts, pool or hiking and skiing with her family. She lives in the Rosemont neighborhood in the City of Alexandria and enjoys thrifting and upcycling curb finds to restore her historic home.
Here is our Q&A with Bridget Shea Westfall
1. How did you get started in the government?
In social work school, there were different fellowship programs that came to talk to us during orientation. I worried about paying off my student loans and having a living wage. I started my career interning part-time at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri as a researcher on school-based mentoring, on a grant program funded by my current agency. Later I was named a Presidential Management Fellow, where I had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Department of Education and the Office of the First Lady at the White House.
Early in my career, I had managers who believed in me and gave me stretch assignments. But most importantly, I had an amazing network of alumni from my graduate school and fellowship. Also, my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha who mentored me and opened doors in a new city. I moved to DC not knowing anyone 18 years ago this May and I can’t believe the life I have here! That is why I am so proud to be a Diversity Outreach Champion for HHS and recruit and mentor new employees.
2. Share about your career journey in the federal government. How did you become a manager?
I became a manager in a very non-traditional way. When my first son was born, I worked on maternal, infant, and early childhood home visiting programs with American Indian, Native Alaskan, and urban Indian organizations and Tribes. It was exciting to be working on a program while I was experiencing, pregnancy, the birth of a child, and the first years of child care! My husband and son would accompany me on many adventures when I went on site visits. That is why I think my son is a huge fan of the mountain states and the West coast. He spent his first year traveling to the most amazing urban and indigenous communities with his mom!
I became a manager because I wanted a job where I traveled less. Especially since my husband travels frequently for his job too. I switched from being a programmatic expert to a financial and administrative expert. From an individual contributor or team lead to managing a team of grants management specialists. When I became a manager, I had other women tell me they had waited until their children were in high school or college to manage. I was an older mom and waiting to become a manager was not practical. I also took offense that they didn’t make the same comments to my male counterparts. Luckily, I have a great group of other moms and dads who are managers who took me under their wing and mentored me mid-career.
3. What opportunities have you taken to lead outside of your professional day-to-day job hours to lead?
There is an Anne Taintor magnet that says Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again. I am the consummate joiner and have served on the boards of the Junior League of Washington, Junior Friends of The Campagna Center and as a national officer for my sorority. As a mom, I am involved in the community. A lot of people think I like being the center of attention, but I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person. I like to get things accomplished!
My favorite picture of my sons is at the Junior League of Washington in Georgetown, in a hybrid meeting, eating snacks in a room full of women. I want them to know that being active in our community helps to amplify the voices of those who don’t have as many resources or hold the attention of those in power.
4. You ran for School Board in Alexandria City Public Schools and got involved in the Resource/Budget making process as a parent liaison. What do you say to women who feel that cannot lead outside of their families and work responsibilities?
As a working mom, I didn’t really pay attention to local politics or the school board. I am the daughter of a teacher and I trusted the school to advocate for the teachers and students. In the pandemic, I advocated for public education, health, mental health resources, competitive pay for teachers, smaller class sizes and hiring additional teachers. I never paid attention to the school or city budget until my son was in an overcrowded classroom and teaching positions were removed from our school.
I love volunteering on the city’s budget advisory board, which engages the community in the budget formulation process and communicates the budget in plain language. More recently, I ran for nonpartisan school board, which was the most humbling experience of my life. My campaign channeled my sorority creed “to be humble in success and without bitterness in defeat”. Running for office taught me so many important life lessons about public education. I greatly admire working moms and dads who serve as elected officials.
The best part of running a campaign was meeting people and learning about different neighborhoods and schools! Because of my experience, I became active in Moms Demand Action and advocating for public education. We need leaders who reflect the community and we need all voices represented at the table, not only the loudest.
Do you know an amazing mom? Nominate a mom of the month here!