Remembering Julie Soderlund

Julie in Israel

Last week, GOTG co-founder Julie Soderlund lost her battle with melanoma.

She was just 38.

She was many things to many people: wife, daughter, sister, aunt, PR guru, political consultant, professional confidant and/or trusted friend. She fought a very aggressive cancer head-on and tried every available avenue for treatment. She lived her last months full of hope, grace and a sense of humor until the end.

In typical Julie fashion, she shared her journey on her blog, My (de)Tour de Force. She openly and honestly discussed her dreams and fears, what not to say to those battling cancer and enough medical commentary to achieve her own MD. 🙂

As we mourn for future memories unfulfilled and experience the grief shared by all those who knew her, we wanted to take a moment and share her part in making GOTG a success and a few favorite memories from some of the original writers who knew her best.

Girls on the Grid was hatched over a bottle of wine … or two or three … at 58 Degrees with Julie, Becky Warren and Laura Braden Quigley the summer of 2009. All three were working in politics/public affairs at the time, and at some point in the evening, the idea emerged to create a platform for Sacramento women to have a voice and share their own experiences, what they love about where we live, and challenges we face that are unique to professional women. A plan was hatched, and the blog launched in November 2009. We were 1/2 excited and 1/2 terrified – who would read it? Why were we putting ourselves out there so publicly? But what followed was a blog that turned into a family and support structure for the writers. Many of us have become lifelong friends, helped each other find jobs and some have even found love in the process.

Julie understood that everyone had a story worth sharing and the power in sharing that story to help others. She helped assemble the right cast of characters that set up the blog for the success it enjoys today. There’s zero chance that would be where it is without her guidance and passion.


Julie in Haiti

Amelia McLear: I first met Julie through our common mentor, Dan Schnur, who taught Julie and me in school (albeit at different universities!). I was looking to make a career change and Dan immediately suggested I reach out to Julie, someone who he said was a great communicator, political thinker and a woman passionate about helping other women succeed. Julie and I connected immediately, and I soon joined her on the communications team working for Governor Schwarzenegger. Julie was a wonderful friend and colleague, and in the summer of 2011, she hosted my bridal shower at her home in Land Park. It was such a lovely Sacramento evening, the kind of warm summer night with twinkling lights on the pergola and a glass of rose in hand that I will never forget. Hugs to you Julie and your friendship. Your life touched so many in such a short time. We will miss you.

Amy Thoma: It’s difficult to put into words the impact Julie had on my life. Julie was my friend, confidant, teacher and so much more. In fact, Julie is the person who pulled me into Girls on the Grid in the first place! There was a period of time Julie and I were never more than a few hundred yards apart. We worked together, practiced at Zuda together, went to church together and lived a block away. I loved it. Julie taught me all kinds of fun things like about Marie’s donuts, Oscars, 58 Degrees and more but mostly she taught me to live a big life full of faith, hope and love and to give each day all my integrity and effort. I’ll miss her very much.

Ashley Robinson: I heard Julie yelling before I met her. (And I had JUST stopped crying …ugh, back at it … thanks, Laura…See below.) The wall separating Governor’s Schwarzenegger’s campaign war room and the office she shared with Lisa was VERY thin. I don’t know who the heck Julie was yelling at that day (or later on subsequent days) but I knew I was glad NOT to be on the receiving end of whatever was happening in there. I must have made some terrified face when my manager, Robert said to me with a grimace, “That’s the press secretary … Julie Soderlund.” And that was my first impression of Julie. As the campaign progressed, I was honored to get to know Julie better; she became an inspiration to me. I know I wasn’t the only young professional woman on that campaign who had stars in her eyes when she was around. She was such a force of nature. And I believe that energy she shared with me, and Colleen, Amanda, Nicole, Olga, Brittany, Michelle, and Laura … that lives on in us. Her legacy is having supported our budding careers and showing us what is attainable, what can be done with style and fun and laughter … and even yelling. I already miss Julie … for these memories and the countless others made over happy hours, celebrations, workouts, and office gossip sessions years after Election Day. I consider myself lucky enough to clutch onto them during this time of sadness.

Julie was always traveling, exploring and growing.

Becky Warren: I first met Julie during the Schwarzenegger re-election campaign. I was the campaign manager for Jessica’s Law and we did several press events together.  I remember how intense she was and how much I enjoyed working with her. After the re-election, I worked as part of the Schwarzenegger communications team and began working with her more regularly. However, where Julie became one of my closest friends was through our 5:45 am five mile runs several days a week with Lisa Page. We shared our frustrations, ambitions and challenges during these five-mile runs. She pushed me to run my first half marathon with her in San Francisco and we laughed because we literally talked the entire 13.1 miles. Julie inspired to get out of my comfort zone – I would have never climbed Half Dome without her beside me each step of the way or traveled to visit her in Europe. I always enjoyed our moments together – I loved her passion about everything – her faith, her husband, her friends, her work and even her committed love of Sriracha, anything spicy, Mexican food, sushi, stinky cheese and great wine. I have so many memories with Julie over the last nearly 10 years, I  am heartbroken she is no longer here. Her spirit is so strong, it is difficult to believe it’s true. Over the last nine months, she was truly an inspiration to all that knew her and many that didn’t but followed her blog. Her faith was strong and so I know that she is now pain-free and with our Father in heaven.

Caroline Silveira: I knew all the Schwarzenegger communications girls because I worked in the Capitol at the time and my connect in was college buddy Becky Warren, who introduced me to Julie. I have a vivid memory with just Julie, Becky and me at my house on 42nd Street. Because I had declared on the GOTG blog that I hated Zinfandel, Julie was sure she could give me a lesson on Zin, by sharing some of her favorites and eventually convert me. We were sitting on my floor, and she had brought a Ridge Zin, explaining to me that I’d only had the Lodi and foothill crap, and this was going to show me what it should be. I wasn’t converted but was convinced she was right. We did that a few more times. Julie was one of the most engaging people to talk to – she would look you in the eye and really listen. I plan to keep taking lessons from Julie, hopefully in faith and giving, and her beautiful life.

Chantel Elder: I met Julie through Girls on the Grid early on in the blog’s history, and all the girls basically seemed like family. In 2011, four of us signed up for a super strict six-week boot camp class and documented our process and results on GOTG. Julie had bright eyes and was already in amazing shape as a yoga addict – on more than one occasion she said that daily yoga kept her centered. At 6 am, five days a week for six weeks we sweat alongside each other, shouted encouragements, whined about the wine we weren’t allowed and documented our changes. My favorite memory of Julie happened after our boot camp ended, the two of us met at (what was then) L Wine Bar to discuss a photography project she needed help with. Julie had just returned from a volunteer trip to Haiti. We drank a bottle of wine, discussed the project and somehow the conversation morphed into …everything. We talked about children, family, volunteering, passion projects, her faith and her overall experience in Haiti that completely moved her. There aren’t many conversations you can remember after wine – but that one, I always will. Julie was wise, incredibly strong and open. So many things she said that evening stuck with me and have made me think about the person I am and want to be. I consider myself so very lucky for that evening with her. Julie you are missed!

Laura Braden Quigley: I first met Julie working on Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign. She was clever, witty, allergic to bullshit, self-deprecating and dedicated to #GSD. I liked her instantly. She was the type of friend and colleague who allowed you to be vulnerable without judgment. I can’t tell you how many times we’d find ourselves in each other’s office, door closed with tirades and tears over the inevitable chaos of the day. She was always quick to offer support and advice, and she always made you feel capable of achieving anything. Road trips, weddings, hikes and countless bottles of wine later, she also taught me that it’s not about perfection or pre-conceived notions on how life is supposed to turn out…but instead, it’s having the fortitude and courage to go after what you want. I may have failed at getting her to like dogs, and she definitely failed at getting me to 6 am Zuda or to the top of Half Dome – but I think we both appreciated the effort. I’m grateful she’s now free from pain, and I hope her writing continues to inspire and help others. She will be missed.

Lisa Page: When I first met Julie in January 2006 in our dingy Californians for Schwarzenegger headquarters, I knew instantly there was something special there — for her and for me. We shared an office for about nine very intense months, and in the process, we shared our most intimate hopes, fears, joy and tears. There was nothing we could hide from each other in our shared office, but we didn’t want to anyway. She became a close friend and confidant. In addition to our love for politics, good food and wine, we were one of the few married campaign staffers so our husbands became friends too. Over the past decade of our friendship, we’ve celebrated many milestones together — from birthdays to new jobs to new years. While I’ve been busy with two young boys (2 and 5) these last few years, I’ve lived vicariously through Julie as she held a global communications position for a Fortune 500 company and traveled in style around the world. It fit Julie in every way, and I was so happy for her. I’m devastated that the future memories I had always pictured are no more, but my life has been made better forever because of Julie. It’s because of her that I ran three half marathons, went to Zuda Yoga and wrote for GOTG — to name a few. I’m so thankful for the conversations we’ve had during these last several difficult and sad months, as I know she treasured all of her friendships, and because of it, I’m committed to being a better friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister, colleague and PR executive in her honor. It’s the least I can do when her life on earth was cut short.

Mary Beth Barber: Julie and I were work colleagues first and foremost, but she had a keen understanding of people’s talents and interests. I was truly surprised when she asked me to be one of the early contributors to Girls on the Grid because I never told her I was a writer. (We worked in parallel but completely different jobs.) My fondest memories of her is also one of my top self-cringe moments when I accidentally cc’d an entire office of people on a thoughtless email. It was a total screw-up, one that I rightfully ate crow for. But not from Julie. There are some people who say they accept an apology but never will, and then there are others who mean it when they give forgiveness. She was one of the latter. She was one of the good ones, period. I wasn’t her close friend, but the thought of Julie gone makes me very sad and effing angry at whatever power that be who thought her passing was a good idea. The world needs Julie Soderlund and others like her.

Robin Swanson: Working on opposing sides to Julie on campaigns and issues over the years, I knew if she was on their team, we’d all have to stay on our game.  She was Julie-on-the-spot with rapid response, and if we dropped the ball, she’d be right there to run it in the other direction.  But as much as she was a consummate professional and a passionate advocate for the people and issues she cared about, she was also fundamentally human.   She was someone I could have a cocktail with after-hours and bond over our mutual hairdresser or running or a great new restaurant. In truth, I was one of many people who really came to understand Julie’s strength of character through her poignant writing about her journey. I read her blog with hope, a little fear and with great admiration for her ability to share her experiences, both heart-wrenching and inspirational.  And like everyone on #TeamSoderlund, I so badly wished for her body to be healthy again – and that’s how I will remember her – a strong, healthy, smart and genuine human being.


Here are a few of our favorite GOTG articles from Julie – sometimes serious, sometimes funny…always honest and genuine.


Whether it was working with orphans in Haiti or raising money for youth programs, Julie also had a huge heart for those less fortunate. For those interested in donating, please consider her favorite causes: GreenHouse (nonprofit offering tutoring, mentoring, spiritual development and leadership development for under-resourced youth in the Gardenland Northgate neighborhood of Sacramento) and MedAir (nonprofit that brings relief/recovery to people in crisis, regardless of race, creed or nationality).

#TeamSoderlund forever. RIP sweet friend.

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  1. Juliet Williams says

    Lovely, well-written stories, all. Thanks for sharing still more of Julie with everyone.

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