Photography by Amy Moore of Amy Moore Photography
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I have the great honor of serving as the first female and second African-American Mayor in the city’s history. It is my mission to make sure that every citizen of our city has an opportunity to participate in Rochester’s economy recovery and my plan to do that is to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunitiesfor all of our citizens..It’s important to view Rochester through the lens of what can be, not simply as it is or as it used to be. Every citizen and every neighborhood holds potential and deserves the opportunity to thrive. I believe that there is no challenge that we can’t overcome, and that we are strongest when we stand together.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
When I was 7-years–old, my grandfather was shot. I remember sitting on my uncle’s knee, that day in my grandfather’s hospital room, asking what would happen to the man who shot him. My uncle said that he would be given a fair trial, and if he was found guilty, would go to jail. This sparked a lifelong interest in the concept of justice, and throughout my youth and teenage years, I wanted to go to law school and become a prosecutor.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
In college, I was exposed to a different side of the law when I accepted an internship in Assemblyman David Gantt’s office. I learned that I could affect change through public policy and advocacy. But as an African-American woman, succeeding in public service is an uphill battle. For all the progress we’ve made, we have so much more work to do. I feel like as a woman, you must not be afraid to elbow your way into the room, look your critics in the eye, and if you feel like your voice is being drowned out, speak louder.
Lettering by Kelly Place of Kelly Place Illustration & Design
What is your greatest strength?
I am a consensus builder. I’m just as comfortable in a board room as I am in the city’s most challenged neighborhoods. I govern by bringing people together, and helping them find common ground. I believe in our people. I believe in our city. And I believe there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
My best advice is to find a mentor, someone who will not only guide you, but also someone who is willing to be honest with you. Also, learn what it means to be part of a team -- what it means to support those who stand shoulder to shoulder with you. In public service, nobody accomplishes anything alone. How far you will go depends on the relationships that you build.
What inspires you?
My conference room is lined with photos of our city’s children. Whenever I am having a bad day, I go in there and I remember what I am fighting for – a better Rochester for my daughter, Taylor, and all the children in the city whose future is limitless – as long as we believe in them.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
My favorite part of being Mayor is bringing people together to make progress. I enjoy going out into neighborhoods and interacting with our citizens, particularly our children. Everyone has a different story, different experiences and different needs, and hearing from each of them makes me a better mayor. As Mayor, I get to see people’s dreams become reality every time we cut a ribbon on a new store.
What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging part of being Mayor is that sometimes we can’t make change happen fast enough. Getting various government and private agencies to align and work together is a difficult task but I will continue to work hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunities they need to succeed, in school, at work and in life and to make Rochester a better community for all.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
A few of many are Shawn Dunwoody, Bleu Cease, Danielle Ponder, Garth Fagan and Rena Golden. Through their different mediums, may they be art, music or dance, each tell a story of our city and our citizens. They spread messages of faith, progress and hope. Rochester is becoming a true City of the Arts, and I am proud that we have so many talented creatives.