I have to admit that there was no one big issue that made me want to run for office. There was no park that needed saving or a specific county project that I felt could use my expertise. I got involved because I was one of the millions of people who attended the Women’s March in January 2017. At the time, I was focused on the national level, but soon my attention was brought to the anti-choice, anti-women bills put forward at the South Carolina State House. When the United States vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord during the summer of 2017, I was inspired by the local governments that stepped up to reduce greenhouse gases and pick up where our national government had failed. It was then I realized that serving at the local level would allow me to make a big difference, so I ran for an open County Council seat.
During my campaign, I was asked about a lot of local concerns: What would happen to a certain county property that was sold? How would I ensure that the bus service improved? Where would the new courthouse be built? I did my very best to answer those questions, knowing that I didn’t know all the history and procedures I’d need to know to get these things done. In many ways, I was just guessing but I cared enough to learn and knew that I had an important perspective to share.
I won my seat in the Democratic Primary in June 2018 and for the next six months, I received lots of congratulations and sat down for a lot of coffees. I am a 2018 graduate of Emerge South Carolina, so I decided to help a fellow Emerge sister with her race. I participated in the local transit academy and toured the Sheriff’s headquarters. It was a very sweet ‘honeymoon’ period and I took advantage of the time to listen and learn.
But nothing really prepared me for the level of responsibility I would feel when I stood with my family and took the oath of office in January 2019. My vote that night for the chair of the council would determine who would set the agenda for the next year. It also hit me that my relationships with fellow Council Members and County staff would determine what we could get done together. Nonetheless, I knew my constituents needed me.
Just a few weeks ago, two lives were lost in an affordable housing complex in my district. There were gas leaks and two men succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Because of the risk of further endangerment, the remainder of the residents – totaling more than 400 families – were displaced. They are now in hotels all over the city without access to their belongings. In my first major act as a Councilmember, I am focused on advocating for a comprehensive relief program for these families.
Through my work on this issue, I also know that I’m lucky to be serving on a Council that is majority women. It has been these same women who have rolled up their sleeves to do the work of figuring out what we can do for our constituents in need. At a donation drive recently, we all worked together to load a truck full of diapers, paper towels, soap and other basic necessities to deliver to the hotels. Looking forward, I know exactly what needs to be done. We need affordable housing, mixed-income housing, and big thinking around building communities that value everyone and allow every person to live with dignity. We need to hold accountable those who make decisions for programs that use public funds for public benefit.
I am proud that I have come full circle from being a candidate who knew that she wanted to make a difference but was unsure of how to do it, to a member of the County Council who is fighting for her constituents. I am even more proud that I get to work alongside other strong women to improve peoples’ lives. I look forward to working with my colleagues and constituents to make the changes our community needs and deserves.