What does it take to make a good council member?
I’ve pondered this question for over a year since making the decision to run for office. I’m not sure it can ever be answered fully but I’ve learned a few things along the way that seem to be important to the people who will decide not only what, but who, will make a good council member. In meeting with neighbors, friends, residents of District 17, fellow candidates and others, I’ve compiled a list of three important characteristics that seem to be a constant throughout those conversations.
Number one on that list has to be that a good council member listens to the people she serves. I’ve had people tell me that no one in our government listens to their issues. They feel forgotten and at times, intentionally ignored. Sometimes, all they need is for their representative to listen to what is most important to them. As an undergraduate social work student, I had to take a class called “Social Work Skills.” One of the primary components of the class was learning the skill of active listening. When you think about it, it all makes sense, make eye contact, don’t interrupt, be sensitive and be present. Give the person your undivided attention. Listening is a skill, one that is fine-tuned and perfected over one’s lifetime. As a council member I will put my social work skills to the test every day as I actively listen to my constituents.
Next on the list of what makes a good council member is closely connected to listening, responsiveness. I’ve heard from the people I’ve met that they want their council member to be responsive to them. There are many ways to accomplish this including the obvious; return phone calls, answer emails, stay connected and be accessible through attending neighborhood meetings and events, etc. But more to the point, people want their council member to talk to them, engage with them, to share the process of governing their community and city. I believe in order to be responsive you must be willing to share the process you go through when you make decisions. People appreciate being included and understanding why a decision is made, even if they disagree with the decision. Responsiveness demands that a council member allow her constituents to be part of the process. As a council member, I will be responsive through actively involving the community which I serve, engaging neighbors to be part of a solution-focused decision making process.
Finally, a good council member has relevant experience and qualifications. The candidates running for our council bring a wealth of experience and are well qualified. Our council will be a diverse body with professionals, public servants and small business owners, just to name a few, rolling up their sleeves and working hard to create good government for our city. My district is lucky to have four candidates that all bring diversity in their experience and qualifications. The choice for us is more about who will bring the most diverse and comprehensive perspective to the council. I believe that I am the candidate who has the best experience understanding the impact of public policy on people’s everyday lives. Over 29 years I have accumulated experience as an advocate, a facilitator, a broker of services, a manager, a teacher, a consensus builder, a change agent, a crisis specialist, a champion of social justice, a leader, a therapist, a listener and a responder. As a council member, I will bring this relevant experience and diverse qualifications to the council in order to analyze and create good public policy that will benefit and improve the lives of the people of my district and my city.
Our city has serious issues to address, from affordable housing to infrastructure. We need a council that will work to build a city that meets the needs of its neighborhoods, replacing outdated water and sewer lines, building more sidewalks, improving public transportation options, funding our children’s education, creating policies that keep our neighborhoods diverse and vibrant with growing businesses and opportunities while ensuring that all of our citizens feel that their representatives, listen, respond and use their experience to make Nashville the best it can be for all of us.
I want to thank Out & About Nashville for the opportunity to share with its readers through these weekly columns. I am proud to have the endorsement of O&AN, the Tennessee Equality Project, The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, The National Association of Social Workers Tennessee Chapter PACE, Women For Tennessee’s Future and Women In Numbers. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, I have been fortunate to create and renew friendships that will last a lifetime and I look forward to being a part of Nashville’s future.
As much as we can celebrate, there is still much work to do (July 13, 2015)
Our people are our greatest asset (July 23, 2015)