Julie Atwood has made multiple careers out of riding horses, architectural design and event planning. Today, she’s a full-time community preparedness activist, as founder, as founder, chief executive officer and executive director of the HALTER Project, a Sonoma County grassroots initiative dedicated to facilitating training for first responders to safely handle animals in emergencies, and providing education resources for people and their animals.
“I feel enormous satisfaction serving on several volunteer disaster animal response teams, and the establishment of several animal technical rescue teams here in the North Bay, knowing our outreach programs saved lives during the fires,” she says. Atwood lives on her ranch in Glenn Ellen with her husband, Tom, of 36 years.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you sing?
In my head, a 10.
When was the last time you gave a speech? How did it go?
I give presentations all the time. I was on a forensics team and was a coach. It usually goes well.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
On a Sonoma or Marin ranch, next to the ocean.
What are the best ways to inspire and motivate people?
Help them visualize achieving the goal. Empowerment gives them what they need to make it happen, and make it personal.
Whom do you most admire?
Helen Keller, Maya Angelou and Itzhak Perlman, as well as others whose vision and creativity effects change through beauty. Those who had to overcome challenges that shaped, but did not stop them.
What’s the most outrageous, over-the-top or extravagant event you’ve planned?
It’s a tie between the Twilight Tea Dances (The Gay Wine Weekend Gala) I hosted for several years, and the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction VIP kickoff parties. It’s fun to create events that validate and inspire generous donors.
How competitive are you?
Way too much! I spent two thirds of my life competing for everything: scholastic recognition, sports, job promotions, clients, I even compete with myself. Now, I’m working on recalibrating and focusing on the rewards of making positive things happen for the better, one at a time, large or small.
Are you superstitious?
I don’t walk under ladders, and I don’t open umbrellas indoors. But, I adore black cats and always have at least one.
Would you describe yourself as an extrovert or an introvert?
I’m a shy introvert, but I can put myself out there for a cause.
What are your favorite pizza toppings? What’s your least favorite?
My favorite is Franchetti’s [Santa Rosa] crab Margherita. My least favorite is loaded with pepperoni and onions.
What is your favorite piece of art you own? If you could own any single piece of art, which would you choose?
I own many paintings, sculptures, photos and fiber-art pieces. They’re all special to me. We lost a large triptych in the fire. It was painted by an obscure local artist, of a herd of horses in the woods, looking through the mist, or perhaps smoke. It was haunting. I still see them and wonder if they knew something we didn’t.
How many horses do you have?
Currently, I have two horses and 1 hinny mule. I love loping over the rolling hills and big pastures of our Red Bluff ranch, but I also love just schooling in the arena.
What book or books are you currently reading?
FEMA training manuals. For breathers, I’ve recently gotten into Audm. It’s a great way to read an array of interesting journalism. My book bucket list includes going back and reading everything by John Steinbeck and Barbara Kingsolver.
What’s your favorite room in your house?
The deck at our pond. It’s our living room and a girlfriend hangout.
I can sit in a rowboat and listen to birds and watch the sky change. I like to sit up there at night and look at the stars and listen to the owls. The pines always smell like childhood camps.
Cows grazing along hillsides and in seaside meadows are a picturesque and familiar sight in Marin and Sonoma counties. Dairy farms have been a local presence for more than 100 years, but thes...