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The City Journals

Two West Jordan residents among recent grads of Women in Leadership Institute

Apr 26, 2019 12:09PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

“She’s a learner, and a thinker, and a do-er. She’s one of our stars, and this [the WLI training] allows her to network with more people,” says Zachary S. Anderson, director of laboratory operations for Sotera’s Nelson Labs, of the Women in Leadership political learning series and its positive impact on employee Darbi Chavez and the company as a whole. (Jennifer J. Johnson/City Journals)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

“Hey! It’s our next senator!”

That is how Jeff Nelson, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Sotera Health’s Nelson Laboratories, often introduces and refers to Darbi Chavez.

Chavez, one of 350-some employees of the West Jordan-based company, is one of two West Jordan residents to recently complete the political development training course offered through Salt Lake City’s Women in Leadership Institute (WLI). Joining her in completing the course this year is two-time course graduate Melissa Worthen, who happens to work at City Journals.

Why WLI?

WLI just announced the class of 43 women across the state who have completed its political development training course.

A nonprofit encouraging women to “make a difference in your community by stepping up and running for office,” the WLI provides women with a six-month, bipartisan “deep-dive” training, covering everything from signature-gathering to social media, from campaign finance to canvassing, from networking to negotiating. Such skills are not only useful for political candidates, but for those fulfilling volunteer roles as public servants or for those just looking to “kick fear” and become more action-oriented.

Out of a class of 43 graduates, West Jordan had two. City Journals talked with each about why she elected to participate in the months-long training program, involving alternating travel to-and-from downtown’s Salt Lake Chamber offices and Lehi’s Silicon Slopes campus.

Darbi Chavez – Embracing ‘different cultures, different people, different ideas’

Darbi Chavez is a thoughtful, collaborative woman. She possesses an enviable blend of scientific savvy and communication skills, but elegantly manages to be a person that one likes and not envies.

She has leveraged her science background (a bachelor’s in biochemistry) with her innate and learned emotional intelligence to become a respected leader at Sotera’s Nelson Labs. 

Chavez manages a team of 43 employees, with three direct reports. This January she was named director of the company’s WISE initiative. WISE is a clever acronym for Women in STEM Education, with STEM being another increasingly recognizable acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. This added responsibility is a networking and mentoring opportunity with what she says is “a lot more visibility” in the company, the industry, and the community.

Through the WLI experience, Chavez sees her unique role in the political process being to help others better understand and engage with government. “It will take a lot of work on my part,” she acknowledged.

“As they taught us, I realized how much we don’t know. We understand only what we are permitted to see,” she observed. 

Chavez really enjoyed the WLI’s helping her appreciate “differences.”

“Different cultures, different people, different ideas” were all a part of the training, she shared.  

Adding to the concept of the “power of difference” theme, Chavez’s boss weighed in. “It’s giving Darbi a different perspective,” said Zachary S. Anderson, director of laboratory operations for Sotera’s Nelson Labs. “She’s a learner, and a thinker, and a do-er. She’s one of our stars, and this [the WLI training] allows her to network with more people.”

Melissa Worthen – ‘I know more than I realize’

There are many reasons Melissa Worthen is unique. Her decision and dedication to attend two sessions of WLI political training series in consecutive years are among them.

“I’ve always been a political nerd. I enjoy how decisions are made,” she says, pausing to add “They stem from needs in neighborhoods.”

Worthen, marketing specialist and community outreach coordinator for City Journals, echoed WLI colleague Chavez’s feeling that the political training course informs about the difficulty for citizens and political candidates to become knowledgeable about government and political processes.

“Women tend to want to be experts,” she said. “[Through the WLI trainings], one realization I had is that you don’t know everything. You aren’t going to know everything. You just have to try!”

That said, she acknowledges, “I know more than I realize.”

One thing she has come to realize through the WLI experience is a powerful aha: “Be who you are – you don’t have to be someone else.”

For her, two terms with the WLI political training has helped her become a better, more genuine person with more awareness who appreciates differing points of view and is able incorporate those into her greater psyche. “If you go into a situation, be willing to learn something, you might actually change your mind,” she said, sharing some of the learnings from WLI.

How to ‘WLI’

There is already a waiting-list for WLI’s 2019 political training, which is scheduled to start September, 2019. Interested women can join the wait-list at The 2018 cost was $179 for the six, three-hour sessions, which all included lunch. Sessions were alternatingly held at the Salt Lake Chamber and at Silicon Slopes, with live streaming available for those not able to attend in person.

In addition to the Women’s Leadership Institute, West Jordan women might consider the national She Should Run
organization. Real Women Run is a local YWCA program tailored for women “more in the beginnings of political interests” which often collaborates with the “deep-dive” WLI.