Julie Won Women's Collective Interview

Updated: Mar 15


Biography:

Julie Won represents the 26th Council district in Western Queens covering the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Astoria, and Woodside. She is the first woman and immigrant to represent this district in the city’s history. As a tenant and activist, Julie has committed to a new vision for her community with a deep focus on creating and preserving affordable housing, increasing access to city resources for all New Yorkers, ensuring that access to quality and affordable internet is guaranteed, and many other issues that are top of mind for her constituents.


At the age of eight, Julie immigrated to New York City with her family looking for a new beginning, an experience she shares with over half of the constituency she represents. Prior to her election, Julie served her neighbors as board member of Queens Community Board 2, Community Capacity Development (CCD), 696 Build Queensbridge, QNS Together, and was a co-founder of the Queens Small Business Alliance (QSBA). In addition, she also worked to make sure that her community was fully counted in the 2020 census as the founder of the Tech Action Group as part of the Queens Borough President’s Complete Count Committee.


Working at IBM for a decade, Julie was an advisor to the federal government and tasked with reworking various agencies’ use of technology to serve people better. She understands deeply the issues that face large-scale government organizations moving toward the cutting edge, and she has the proven experience to execute those changes. Julie also knows how important it is to provide affordable and quality internet service for all families and how it impacts all aspects of their lives, from education to healthcare access and beyond.


As Council Member, Julie is working towards true equity in the neighborhoods she serves, ensuring that existing communities will have the support and backing to remain sustainable and affordable for generations to come. By expanding culturally appropriate access and engaging the many vibrant and underserved residents of District 26, Julie looks to transform how NYC government serves all New Yorkers.


INTERVIEW


APAICS: Tell us a bit about your role as NYC Council Member for the 26th District

JW: I am the chair of the contracts committee - contracts make up ~20% of the city budget, roughly $20 billion in the upcoming fiscal cycle. As chair, I am focused on holding oversight over city contracts to eliminate waste while making sure our taxpayer dollars are directly serving our constituent's needs. I'm serving on the following committees as well as the Budget Negotiation Team leveraging my professional experience as a tech federal contractor and my background in finance:

APAICS: Your personal hero/who inspired you to work as a public servant?

JW: During the height of the pandemic, I met an 8 year old girl at one of my public housing projects while doing hot meal distribution. She would sit outside at a bus stop every single day using LINKNYC public wifi at the bus stop in order to attend remote school. She showed me on her tablet how she never turns on her mic or her video, only uses her zoom chat function because she didn't have wifi at home and was too embarrassed that her peers would find out that she had to go to school everyday at a bus stop. Being a federal contractor in the past and working in IT, I knew that we could very easily procure a government contract with a vendor for $20 per hot spot that could provide little girls like her high speed internet so she could learn anywhere. She is who inspired me to reach out to my local elected officials - city, state and federal to see how we could close the digital divide to ensure low income families could have internet access. Seeing no real commitment or engagement from my elected officials pushed me to run for office and it made Wifi for All the center of my campaign.

APAICS: How has your background as both an AAPI and being an immigrant shaped your journey in politics?

JW: Language access and digital literacy were undeniable inequities for immigrants and low income families during the pandemic. As the tech action group founder and lead for the Queens Borough president's census 2020 outreach, the pandemic made it clear to community organizations and government that our current services were not accessible to immigrants. With a gap in connectivity due to lack of affordable internet and technology devices, as well as lack of language access to government services and benefits made it incredibly difficult for the most vulnerable communities to receive the very help that they deserved. In my district, we have a high concentration of Himalayan and Bengali immigrants which our city government did not have translations for. As the first woman, immigrant, and AAPI to be elected in my council district, my council office has prioritized language access by ensuring our staff speak tibetan, nepali and bengali in addition to spanish to ensure that our constituent's needs are met. We will continue to advocate for more language access as well as digital literacy courses to help all immigrant communities receive the services they are entitled to by our city.


APAICS: What is your morning routine to get you ready for the day?

JW: I swim every day and listen to UpFirst NPR news

APAICS: Favorite book or podcast?

JW: Radiolab

APAICS: Message for someone running for elected office?

JW: Build a strong team with a shared mission: it would not have been possible to run for office without my core team of 25 people who mostly volunteered their time. From data analytics, digital strategy, design, policy, finance, and field -- my campaign would not have been possible with the talent and skills of my team.

APAICS: Favorite Korean food?

JW: Meeyeok gook, seaweed soup

APAICS: What was the most challenging hurdle when you first ran for office?

JW: Finances - I worked full time while running for office since the money that you fundraise cannot be used for personal living expenses. Balancing my full time work responsibilities with campaigning meant working double time and all weekend, but it helped me prioritize and kept me focused.

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