Roughly 12 hours after Missoula's City Council selected Cynthia L. Wolken as Ward 2's newest representative, she was busy fielding phone calls from media, charting out her increasingly chaotic schedule and hustling to make it to City Hall in time to be sworn in.
"I'm still a little in shock," Wolken said Tuesday morning.
The 31-year-old attorney was still absorbing the news that she had beaten out 16 other applicants to replace outgoing council member Roy Houseman, who resigned at the end of December to take a job with the United Steelworkers Union.
During the weeks leading up to Council's Monday night vote, Wolken navigated a rigorous application process. It proved difficult for the Council, too, which was tasked with whittling an overflowing roster of qualified candidates down to one.
"We've been put in a really hard position here tonight," said Councilwoman Stacy Rye.
Prior to the vote, community members sung high praises for Wolken, who ran for Council in 2009 before dropping out to care for a sick family member. An active member of the Missoula County Democratic Party, she's been very involved with the Montana Woman Pipeline project and serves as the board chairwoman for the Montana Human Rights Network.
"She has grace and integrity to continue governing as Houseman did," said community organizer Molly Moody.
Rye was similarly impressed by Wolken's resumé, brains and—perhaps most importantly when working with strong-minded council peers—her temperament.
"There is something to be said for emotional intelligence," Rye said.
After two rounds of voting, Wolken garnered votes from council members Marilyn Marler, Stacy Rye, Dave Strohmaier, Pam Walzer, Jason Wiener, Ed Childers and Bob Jaffe. Adam Hertz earned Lyn Hellegaard and Renee Mitchell's support. Dick Haines picked Myrt Charney.
Wolken says for the next couple of weeks she'll focus on simply learning the ropes and becoming better acquainted with her constituents. From there, she'll hunker down to work on issues close to her heart, specifically affordable housing and sustainable transportation. Her seat will be contested in November. She's already planning her election bid.
"I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves," she says.