Council Member Letitia Plummer is no stranger to the political stage being a second-term Houston elected official. However, she is a down to earth Houston citizen first. She has spent time in the private sector serving the citizens of Houston – listening for how to better serve them.
In this exclusive interview with Austin Network, Councilwoman Plummer talks candidly about her private practice, inspiration for running for office and, inspiring young women to pursue positions of elected leadership.
What first inspired you to run for Houston City council?
I have always volunteered in the community and the more time I spent out there, the more aware I became of the environmental injustice, the health inequities, economic inequality and economic disparities, systemic racism and overall how the playing field was not level for everyone. In 2014, in response to a personal experience, I authored legislation that changed the Family Code in regards to Gestational Agreements with Rep Joseph Deshotel and Senator Borris Miles. I come from a family of civil rights advocates and have always believed that a just society provides equal opportunities to everyone for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I also believe that all politics are local and starting at the local level, working on issues that affect constituents leads to bigger changes.
During that journey to victory, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Elections unfortunately have become all about fundraising. People equate bigger funds to bigger outreach and bigger voter turnout. PACS, lobbyists, organizations and people fund candidates that represent their interests. During my race, I was careful about the sources of my funding. I think many candidates find fundraising a challenge. It’s not all about money. It’s also about meeting with the people you will represent.
With that challenge conquered, what advice would you give to first-time candidates?
Stay true to yourself and your principles. We have reached a time when the public wants to know what a candidate stands for. Keep your integrity and stick with the issues. In my opinion we are becoming more polarized, yet the key issues remain the same. We have more alike than we have differences, and the goal should always be to represent your constituents and not the special interests of others.
Have you heard from women or girls that have been inspired by your journey? If so, share one?
There is a college student that came to my dental practice as an intern after she graduated High School. She had every intention to go to Dental School after college graduation. Her second summer at U.T., she interned with me in my City Council office and we had numerous conversations about what she wanted to do. Ultimately, she decided to change her major to public policy focusing on healthcare inequities in Texas and around the country. I have found that as a woman being transparent about the challenges I have overcome is more powerful than anything I can ever do to positively influence other young women.
As you continue your second year, what can you look back on and be happy you accomplished during the first year in office?
I’ve been a small business owner for over twenty years. Some of the things I did included reviewing the city’s budget to ensure that we were being fiscally responsible and to find funding for programs. We achieved transparency in the Houston Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and helped small businesses affected by COVID-19 to receive relief. We examined food insecurity in Houston and the areas where the food deserts and how COVID-19 created further inequities in those areas. I worked with local restaurants to provide COVID Impacted seniors and families to have healthy, whole cooked meals and also worked with urban farmers to examine how they could benefit underserved areas of the city.
Will your office offer any intern opportunities or chances to help?
Yes. My office does have internship opportunities. Typically, we work with universities but occasionally, we may ask people to submit resumes.
What do you hope to learn in your second year?
This is a learning journey and I don’t believe we ever stop learning. You continuously improve and refine how you legislate for your constituents and what policies you make. Ultimately, it is about serving the people and finding the best way to do that.
What resources (books, courses, etc) would you recommend to young folks that want to get involved in civics?
The number one thing I would say is to volunteer in your communities. Spend time learning about the issues that plague our communities. There is no better way to learn. It is also a good way to keep you grounded and humble.
I also read books from great leaders, past and present, to help guide me as I work for the people of Houston.
What would be the message you’d want citizens of Austin to know about your office and how you plan to work with the city of Austin while elected?
I believe in collaboration. I do pay attention to what happens in other cities and how I can learn from others. I believe there is always room to learn from colleagues at a Local, State and Federal level and working in silos is not beneficial for anyone. A couple of months ago, I had a discussion with Austin Council Member Greg Casar on a panel. I’d like to see more local officials from different, discussing and sharing ideas. For that reason, I welcome any Austin officials who would like to collaborate.