After reading and listening to the December 14th City Council meeting, I feel the need to address some points mentioned. My time as a council member was a unique experience given the pandemic and my path to appointment. Due to the circumstances of my appointment, there has been a demonstrably false narrative created that I functioned as a puppet to other council members.
In 2019 I was approached by several citizens and Council member Heather Robinett to serve on the newly formed Technology Board as my background in marketing, cyber security, and social media could serve the city. Prior to her approaching me to join, I had not interacted with Robinett. This is important when considering the false narrative that I was installed by her and others. I consulted with Robinett throughout her candidacy on ways she could implement social media in her campaign. While I did assist her, these actions are not a pledged allegiance to her or her objectives. Robinett and myself have agreed and disagreed on many things during my time on council.
In May of 2020 I drafted an initial Public Relationship Strategy in response to my frustrations and the murder of George Floyd. Here is an excerpt from that document:
“There is an urgent need for actively communicating the City’s commitment to combating systemic racism and moving forward as a community. Utilizing media platforms through systems put in place and controlled by the citizens’ best interests serves as a preventative of future violence. The narratives being formed outside of our community will continue to prevent growth, and harm our city’s reputation. If we do not correct our public image on the national stage, every police-involved shooting across the United States will result in damage to our properties, brand equity, and residential pride.”
I worked to circulate this strategy through the channels I had access to at the time and throughout June of 2020. It was because of my efforts to implement policy and strategy for the city outside of my current capacity, that I discussed with council member Linda Lipka my ability to serve in the seat left by the recently elected Mayor Jones. Council member Lipka has been a life-long family friend as I was raised in Ferguson with her children. I had also been working with her on the Taste in Ferguson for years at this point. I talked her into supporting my decision to enter as a candidate for the vacant position and she tasked me with introducing myself to the individual council members. After introducing myself to council member Toni Burrow, I made calls to, then, council member Byron Fry and current member Fran Griffin. We were not able to connect at the time. The idea that I am or was ever a pawn of council member Lipka’s will is truly absurd and hurtful. Below is an excerpt from my application:
“My goals for serving on the Ferguson City Council are to open up communication channels between the city and its citizens to work toward improving the city’s equity. I will work with the other council members and city officials to accurately relay information as we work to improve Ferguson… I want my children to grow up with fond memories of Ferguson and have a community that will make them better people, as was my experience growing up here.”
Immediately after being appointed, the narrative that I was installed by ‘the gang’ to be an intentional roadblock to Mayor Jones manifested.
This falsehood followed my career as a council member and appears to still overshadow the work I do for the city. The statement by the Mayor, “when Stephen Garrett was on the council and you all voted the way you are wanting to vote, no one said a word” in the meeting continues to push the idea that I was nothing more than a vote. It was amazing to see some of my efforts come to fruition with the implementation of project management software by City Manager Osterberg, but to have that marred by statements from the Mayor saddens me. I expect better from our city officials, as a whole, to work for the citizens and not get lost in perceived power struggles. I worked with my peers for the benefit of the city and hope my work continues to positively impact Ferguson.
Since I began my journey into the political atmosphere of Ferguson, I have held a single objective; improve the community through the skills and knowledge I have. My involvement in Ferguson is my own initiative, and how I voted in any meeting was my perception of what was best for the community. I note these events to showcase my consistency. I hope to continue serving Ferguson long into the future.