One of the perks of serving on Sutter Creek’s city council is meeting in the back room of Sina's Back Roads Café.
That's where Josie Cadieux-Faillers and four local volunteers are gathered around a table to go over tourism strategies for this gold rush town tucked into the foothills of Amador county.
While this isn’t an actual city council meeting it is how things get done in this town of 2,500 residents.
Now that she's rolled up her sleeves, Cadieux-Faillers quickly discovers she can’t even get a cup of coffee without bumping into folks who want to talk about community issues.
“When I want to be 'incognito' I have to leave the county,” she says. “Everybody’s got something on their mind, which is okay. Being in a small community I do care about what we’ve got going on. And there are things that’ll happen that I don’t know about, and those things need to be looked at.”
For nearly thirty years she’s owned a boutique on Main Street where she sells clothing and jewelry she scouts out herself.
As Cadieux-Faillers strolls down Eureka Street with fellow Sutter Creek merchant Lisa Koslowski she explains she’s never been a 'political' person.
“And I still don’t feel like I’m involved in politics even though I’m a city council person," she says. "I’m just part of a community and I can take some aspects of our community and help with them.”
One of things on her plate is restoring the Knight Foundry. It dates back to 1873 when workers made mining equipment during the Gold Rush.
“Our goal is to bring it back," says Cadieux-Faillers. "We don't just want to preserve it, we want to bring it back to a functioning foundry. And it’s possible to do it. We’re pretty excited.”
The Sutter Creek City Council must raise $325,000 over the next three months. Cadieux-Faillers is determined she and her fellow city council members will get it done.
While the newly elected city councilwoman leads with optimism and a breezy laugh, locals know her story is a painful one.
On Christmas Eve two years ago, Cadieux-Faillers' husband and son were killed when their airplane crashed just a half-mile outside of town.
She remembers how residents gathered and mourned with her.
“Losing my husband and my son was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, that I’m still going through," she says. "But then I realized I needed a new purpose in life. I needed to give back to a community that’s been so incredibly supportive of me and what I’ve been through.”
Cadieux-Faillers is one of two women on the city council.
And while California is making progress, women are still under-represented when it comes to local elected office.
"If we don’t challenge ourselves, where are we going to end up? Sitting in front of the TV?" she says. "I would much rather be out and about doing something than doing nothing. Our communities need us. And it’s good for us as women to become involved."