While serving as Oxford’s Mayor I have been blessed with many opportunities to speak to different groups. In doing so, I have worked hard to encourage people to “find their voice” and a way to serve others. I have hosted several groups of young people at City Hall, including Girl Scout and Brownie Troops, elementary, high school, and University classes and groups.
I have hosted the Oxford-Lafayette Junior Leadership classes, as well as the adult classes. I have enjoyed opportunities to speak to sorority and fraternity groups, Ole Miss Student Government Association groups, various college classes, Chancellor’s Leadership Classes, and Boys and Girls Club events. I have spoken at numerous conferences and conventions including Boys State and the Stennis Institute Ready to Run Women’s Conference.
Spending time with creative, bright, compassionate young people inspires me, and quite frankly is one of the most rewarding parts of being the Mayor. Two programs that I am particularly passionate about are my Girl emPOWERment Program and Mayor for the Day Program.
Well before I ran for Alderman of the City of Oxford, I was passionate about mentoring young people. I have volunteered in Bramlett Elementary School, Oxford Elementary, Della Davidson and other schools, and I always enjoyed working with children and encouraging them. I believe it is important to for children to “find their voice” and passion for making a difference.
I found many leadership programs for kids who have been identified as having strong leadership skills and for those who have been identified as ‘at risk.’ I wanted to develop a program for kids that was different, so once I was elected Mayor I started Girl emPOWERment for 5th-grade girls. My program is not for 5th-grade girls with the highest scores, the best athletes, or have been identified as leaders in their class. The goal is for each group of girls to look like the real world, and to be a safe place for unlikely friendships to occur. Girls from different backgrounds and economic levels have the opportunity to come together to find that they have more in common than divides them. We try to teach these girls what a leader looks like and how to develop leadership skills.
I firmly believe that all of us can make a difference by changing one mind and one heart at a time. My Girl emPOWERment program helps girls identify who they are, what they believe, and how to express those beliefs in a productive way. Our goal is to empower these young ladies with communication skills essential to make a change in the world, and to help them see their own possibility and promise. Our program does not encourage girls to run for class president, or to believe any type of ideology, but rather to have the self-confidence to ask another child who looks lonely to sit with them at lunch or to put an end to bullying on the playground.
I have facilitated three 5th grade Girl emPOWERment classes over the past three years, and it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. These girls have heard from women leaders from across the state, traveled to Jackson to watch our Legislature in action and meet women Legislators, participated in team building, and practiced listening, defended their opinions, and changed their minds. They have learned to love and respect others even when they do not agree, and I believe they have created authentic friendships that will last through high school.
Mayor for the Day
I also implemented a program to teach fourth graders about how local governments work, and we named it “Mayor for the Day”. I have hosted numerous Mayors for the Day over the past four years. Fourth graders at Della Davidson Elementary who are interested have to fill out an application and write two short essays: (1) on why kindness is an important leadership skill, and (2) why we should recycle.
We pick up the Mayors for the Day from school in a police car and tour city facilities. This includes City Hall, police department, recycling center, and fire department. They get to visit the mounted patrol barn and meet all of our horses. During these visits, each department rolls out the red carpet and teaches the Mayors for the Day how the City of Oxford operates on a daily basis.
It is always fun watching kids realize that when you put the trash at the curb before school, come home and it’s gone…that’s not magic. And when you turn on the water and do not have to be concerned if it is safe to drink…again, not magic. I have had several Mayors for the Day who I guarantee will be in the running for the job one day!
City of Oxford Employees
I take this same approach leading the City of Oxford workforce. I believe leaders are charged with mentoring our employees and encouraging them to find their voice and passion for making a difference.
Every employee knows that my door is always open. Every department head is empowered to lead and encouraged to empower others. Leaders become great, not because of their power but because of their ability to empower others.