After a delay caused by a split vote last month, the Ferguson city council has unanimously appointed Laverne Mitchom to fill the open council position left by the death of Brian Fletcher on Jan. 10.
Mitchom is an African-American counselor with 30 years’ experience working for St. Louis’ voluntary school desegregation program, where she developed skills she says she plans to transfer to her role as councilwoman.
“I’m used to helping people come together and try to understand and listen to each other’s opinions,” said Mitchom, adding that she’s also accustomed to leading discussions on race relations.
“To be very frank, in the St. Louis voluntary transfer program we had racial issues come up. And in dealing with those issues we would always have to try to get everybody to come to the table, mutually be respectful and hear each other’s side of the issue,” Mitchom said. “A lot of times when you worked it out, there were misunderstandings. Someone may not have felt that they came across in a racist manner and someone may have felt that they really didn’t intend to say it that way.”
Mitchom spoke to St. Louis Public Radio before the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the city. She said that despite the unknowns, she is hopeful that Ferguson has a good future.
“I believe with all of us working together — the council working with the community and the community participating and volunteering -- I believe we can be successful and make this community a great place. I keep saying that because I really believe that. I know we’re in some tough times right now. But I think together we can get through it,” Mitchom said. “I don’t have this positive attitude just because I want to have it. There are good people in Ferguson and we all want what’s best for our community. We may be expressing it in different ways, but all of us, we want what’s best for our community. And that gives me a positive attitude. That gives me hope.”
Mitchom said her goal for her next two years on Ferguson’s City Council is “to help the community heal and move the community toward more unity.”
Mitchom expects to be sworn into office during the next City Council meeting. Her term ends in April 2018.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.