Looking for a role to give back to her community, Brainerd native Leanne Jones has entered the crowded race for Chattanooga City Council District 5.
Jones works as the executive assistant at Faith United Baptist Church, where her father has served as pastor for more than 20 years. While her work involves outreach and working with members of her community, she said she began thinking of ways to more directly give back to the district and city that she calls home.
"It all kind of started when I watched the remake of 'Marshall' with Chadwick Boseman. By the end of the movie I was like 'I got to do something,'" she said of the 2017 film about Thurgood Marshall. "I didn't know what, but it was like something was pulling at me."
Jones says she was compelled to find a way to fight for the rights of her fellow community members, an effort solidified by encouragement from her father.
"I have always been the type of individual to stand up for the rights of others and kind of help others find their way when they don't know which way to go and kind of walk alongside people," she said, citing informal volunteer work like helping community members apply for licenses, get groceries or get other assistance when needed.
"Maybe about 3-5 months after that, my daddy had a real conversation with me and said 'You should run for council,'" she said. "And it was weird because I had a dream about that like a week prior."
Now, as a candidate, Jones has spent several months running a District 5 podcast and communicating with neighbors to figure out how to best represent them if elected.
"I want to push District 5 in a direction to where all of the residents feel safe and feel like their voices have been heard, as well as making sure that they are taken care of holistically," she said. "And what I mean by that is all areas of their lives — emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually.
"I want to make sure that every person has access to something that will help benefit their life.
While members of her campaign team work on specific plans ranging from bringing an assisted living facility to the district to youth programs, Jones says she's focusing on making herself accessible to District 5 residents to ensure transparency.
"There are different ways to make sure that each person feels as though they have been heard, even if it's just a small change, we want to make sure each person feels that they're heard," she said.
To stand out from the other candidates running for the seat to be vacated by Councilman Russell Gilbert, who is running for mayor, Jones says she will use her faith in God and communication with the district to do what's right.
"I have always prided myself on making sure I stand for what's right. I am not the individual who's going to come to the office and take underhanded deals or do something that wouldn't be in the best interest of my district," she added. "This district is made up of people who make up the city of Chattanooga. Why would I not work on behalf of them and do what's right by them?"
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.