NEW YORK—Councilmember Jessica Lappin used to wake up at 4 o’clock every weekday morning for figure skating practice. After two hours of gliding, twirling, and leaping, she would head straight to her homeroom at Stuyvesant High School.
“I really learned discipline and time management from competitive figure skating,” Lappin said.
Today, time management is an imperative part of Lappin’s work. She is a mother of two, wife, council member, the chair of the Committee on Aging, and the co-chair of the Women’s Caucus. On some days, Lappin only has time to take in a few slurps of soup for lunch before rushing off to a three-hour council meeting.
Despite the demanding hours, Lappin wouldn’t trade her job for anything.
“It’s incredibly rewarding work. What’s nice about local government is that what we do is very tangible,” she said. “If it’s helping to open a new school or helping a senior get a hot meal, we can often really feel it, see it, and touch it.”
Lappin’s interest in the government began as a teenager. Her first political activist event was the original March for Women’s Lives in 1992. Lappin and her mother carpooled with a Planned Parenthood car to D.C. She recalled watching thousands of marchers arrive by train.
“There was a real feeling in New York and across the country that government wasn’t doing enough to take women’s issues seriously,” Lappin said. “That was something that had a very strong impression on me as a teenager.”
Around 750,000 men, women, and children gathered for the pro-choice march in Washington, according to the National Organization for Women.
The year 1992, subsequently, became “the year of the woman.” It was the year when Carolyn Maloney, Barbara Boxer, Patricia Murray, and Carol Moseley Braun were elected to office.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for me, you really felt that you were making a difference because so many women were elected to office that year,” Lappin said.
It was college, however, that truly solidified Lappin’s dream of working in the government. She used to want to work in the business side of the music industry. “I love music, but I’m not musically talented,” she said. “I have tried to play many instruments, the piano, violin, flute.”
At Georgetown University, Lappin studied government and French. She took advantage of being in the district and did an internship at Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s office. “That was the experience when I thought to myself, I would love to be in government,” she said.
Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, Moynihan was the Ambassador to the United Nations, India, and was a member of four successive presidential administrations—from John F. Kennedy to Gerald Ford.
Accomplishments in Office
Lappin was elected to the City Council in 2005 in the 5th District, representing the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.
In a seemingly incongruous role, Lappin, at 37, is chair of the Committee on Aging.
“It is important to have people of all ages and background in government positions,” she said.
An important influence in Lappin’s life, Rabbi Harold Swiss, inspired her to advocate for the improvement of elderly care and accessibility in the city.
“When he was alive and leading our congregation, he spoke often of how youth always gives way to old age,” she said. “And how important it is for us to value, respect, and care for our elders.”
And Lappin is thinking ahead. “I want to live here my whole life. An issue that is important to the senior is an issue that is important to all of us,” she said.
Lappin is also chair of the Land Use Subcommittee, where she fought for the construction of 20,000 new public school seats in the city.
Lappin is married to Andrew Wuertele. They are raising two sons together, one 5, and another 18 months old, in East Midtown.
“I set boundaries. When I’m home, I’m home. When I’m out, I’m out,” she said. “But I think it’s really about respecting the time that you are home with them.”
Lucas, her older son, lost his first tooth this week. “Just in time for picture day,” she joked.
“His younger brother is learning to talk right now. It’s so much fun to come home at night and see what new words he’s picked up that day,” she said.
Oftentimes, events continue to pop up over the weekend and Lappin brings her children with her.
In the little free time that Lappin has, she cooks and bakes. “I just love to go home and chop onions,” she said.
Her new favorite past time is jogging. She just recently participated in a half-marathon, where she listened to rap and R&B to get her through the 13.1 miles.
Invisible HeroesIf Lappin could meet any historical figure today, it wouldn’t be John F. Kennedy or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She would prefer to look for inspirations from the “early suffragettes who fought a lot for their cause but their names are unknown in history,” Lappin said.
“I think sometimes we forget how far we really have come in a relatively short period of time. [There is] a long way to go, though. We still don’t have a woman president.”
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