“I thought a lot about what’s the best way to make change for these communities,” she said.
That phrase, “making change,” has been a common refrain for Holstege and guided her through her undergraduate years at the University of California Santa Barbara, law school at Stanford and her decision to run for a seat on Palm Springs City Council.
Politics wasn’t her goal, but Holstege said it was in the back of her mind when she started law school that the degree would certainly help in a political career. Initially, she thought she’d pursue federal impact law. But a summer internship proved unfulfilling.
“I made it to my dream organization on Wall Street in New York and I thought it would be my dream job and it really wasn’t. I realized I really didn’t like sitting at a desk, talking about ‘should we do this Supreme Court case or not?’ or ‘do we want to help 300,000 women in Kansas or not?’ without those communities being part of that conversation,” Holstege said.
She said the work felt “disconnected” from how change really happens and she realized she wanted to do community law. In the Coachella Valley, Holstege’s work has focused on farm workers rights, housing and social security disability clients.
She said she likes the grassroots nature of community law, working directly with people and seeing the effect she has on their lives. Now, she wants to take that a step further, crafting the laws and policies that will impact Palm Springs residents for years to come.
Holstege was drawn to Palm Springs by her husband, Adam Gilbert, whose family has lived in the valley for three generations. The couple now live in the same home his parents and grandparents lived in. Like the proverbial millennial couple, the two watch Netflix, go out to eat and take hikes with their dog, Layla Romney Lannister III.
“She’s the one percent of dogs,” Holstege said, laughing. “We spoil her really, really bad. She’s our baby.”
Holstege said she loves her adopted home: the mountains, the small-town feel, the pace and quality of life. But she also sees issues, from the dearth of affordable housing to the steadily increasing homeless population.
She advocates for a housing-first model that includes incentives for builders.
“I think the brand of Palm Springs is that it’s a wealthy resort town and everyone is wealthy but the facts don’t really bear that out,” she said. “Let’s build a Palm Springs that works for all of us, because a lot of us can’t buy a house in Palm Springs. A lot of us live in poor housing conditions.”
In an interview with The Desert Sun, Holstege said she thinks the council needs more diversity. A fresh perspective is part of what Holstege said she brings to the table.
“I’m not running because I’m a woman. I’m not running because I’m a millennial. But I think those things bring diversity and new perspectives to council,” she said.
Many seem to agree. The political novice has scored endorsements from Rep. Raul Ruiz, County Supervisor V. Maunel Perez and outgoing Palm Springs Council member Ginny Foat.
She’s also been endorsed by the Victory Fund, Equality California and the Desert Stonewall Democrats. Holstege said she does identify as a member of the LGBTQ community (a requirement for the Victory Fund endorsement and Equality California’s as a local candidate), but didn’t get more specific, saying she thought a track record of fighting for equality was more important than how an individual identifies.
“We’re fighting for a world where gender doesn’t matter, orientation doesn’t matter. That’s the world we’re fighting for,” she said.
While the endorsements have rolled in, Holstege has also faced criticism from fellow candidates who said she has not been critical enough of current and past city councils. Holstege said she has been critical at times, but added she thought it was more important to provide solutions than dwell on problems.
“I think it’s easy as a candidate to criticize. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do,” she said.
Using the ballot measure as an example, she said it was easier for a candidate to disagree with the measure than to propose another solution. As a voter, Holstege said she wasn’t in favor of the tax, especially coming on the heels of Measure J, which she said had been misappropriated in some cases.
But as an aspiring public official, she said she thinks the sales tax increase is in the “best interest in the city as a whole, moving forward.” She stressed that she’s not running for herself, but to represent the residents of Palm Springs.
“I’m not running for Queen of the Universe,” she said. “I’m trying to think of the best interests of our community and not just me.”
Robert Julian Stone
To read the complete responses to our 2017 Palm Springs City Council candidate questionnaire, please see the database.