ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – On this weeks edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz sat with Shawnte Fleming to chat about her campaign for City Council.
Fleming is a small business owner and has previously served on the City of Abilene Planning and Zoning Committee and is running for place 3 for City Council. Born and raised in Abilene, Fleming said she holds pace 3 close to heart. This position covers the north side of town and Mayor Anthony Williams once sat in this position.
In her role on the Planning and Zoning Committee, Fleming shared that she has learned many things, including things she thought she was familiar with.
“It gave me a different perspective into other Abilenians,” Fleming said.
She shared that working with residents about things such as properties and building placement, she found that people get excited with things that they want or do not want.
“I’ve learned a whole lot, I’ve learned how to handle some difficult conversations,” Fleming explained. “I think that has actually molded me to go ahead and throw my hat in for this race.”
Fleming was inspired by Sheria Ford Davis’s campaign for place 3. Although she did not win the election, Fleming worked with her one on one about how to improve the city.
“Sheria faced some difficulties when she was running. We sat down, we had many conversations,” Fleming explained. “We still wanted to do some things with the city that we felt like could be a little bit better.”
On Fleming’s website, she talks about her vision – building a stronger and more inclusive community. She shared in the interview that if elected, she will become the first woman of color to serve on the Abilene City Council.
“Abilene is for all of us. We don’t want it to just be a male-dominate, we don’t want it to be targeting certain groups or certain people, we want Abilene for everybody,” Fleming explained. “For me to just pave the way to see other women step up and want to run is something that I would want to be that path-finder.”
Fleming said she can tell the difference in the city when crossing the railroad tracks that divide the north and south side of Abilene. She shared that many businesses that draw local attraction are on the south side of town. Fleming believes that some of the only things drawing people to the north side are the recently installed Allen Ridge mall and the Highway 351 Walmart.
“Just want to be more balance for like, Abilene. I think that’s what I can provide, is just that balance that we need,” Fleming expressed.
Since the start of her campaign, Fleming has shared that she is looking to take non-traditional methods to reach the youth and young adults of Abilene.
“For me, I am a recipient of our Abilene Independent School District of Vocational Programs,” Fleming shared. “So what’s near and dear to my heart is when I went to visit the LIFT.”
LIFT is a vocational program that provides young adults the opportunity to be licensed and/or certified to go straight into the workforce. Fleming was in the class of 2000 through the cosmetology program.
“That program gave me an opportunity to come straight out of school, start my own business, working under my mom first, and then actually starting my own business,” Fleming said. “That’s one of the things very dear to me, is our youth. Our youth and our young adults.”
Fleming shared that the young adult population includes students from Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene Christian University, McMurry University, Texas State Technical College, service members and more.
“I want to focus on them and see if it’s something that they want to do, like starting a business. If they want somewhere to go. A lot of people leave here because there’s nowhere for them to go,” Fleming explained.
She is also focused on securing funds for Abilene to finance a broad range of services such as additional assistance for mental health care, childcare, small businesses, and educational institutions. Fleming has already met with a focus group with local leaders to talk about childcare and one thing that came up is the lack of childcare facilities for parents to drop their kids off so they can go to work.
“So people can work the shifts that they need to while having a childcare facility for their kids to go to. And it’s a safe space and you don’t have to leave them with someone or try to find someone to watch them,” Fleming shared.
Fleming also noted that the Betty Hardwick Center has worked hard to tackle the mental health crisis.
“We’re seeing it more and more and it’s hard because we need more counselors, more therapists, and counselors and therapists that people can actually relate to. That’s one of my biggest concerns that I’m hearing now, they can’t relate,” Fleming explained.
Fleming said she wants to expand on the available aid for metal health, and although the places working on the mental health crisis right now are doing a great job, but the need is very strong.
She also shared that the current city council is doing a great job and is heading in the right direction and she wants to help continue that growth. One way she plans to do this is by helping the DCOA continue to bring new businesses in and help small-shop owners stay open.
“I think with me running for city council, I can provide a lot of different opportunities and a way where people can come and talk to me,” Fleming shared. “I would be committed to place 3 of Abilene City Council.”