Coming from a childhood of poverty and trauma, Jennifer Ananda said that by the numbers, she should not be sitting on the Lawrence City Commission dais Tuesday night.
But the mentors she met when she came to town “inspired me to think outside of the small world I’d carved for myself and see the bigger picture, and grow and develop,” she said. “They saw potential in me that they nourished.”
And her service on the commission was an attempt to begin to repay the debt she feels she owes the Lawrence community, she said.
“The people in this community are compassionate, are motivated to help, intelligent, kind and most of all, graceful,” Ananda said.
But her year as mayor, 2020, represented the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus nationwide protests over racial injustice.
“It was a year of objectifying political figures, simultaneously expecting them to be perfect unaffected deities and to be no better than the shit on the bottom of our shoes,” Ananda said.
“I was not a neighbor, a person with flaws who was a member of the City Commission. I was a manifestation of the frustration and anger and fear and pain being experienced by our community.”
She said in her time in office she’d had a brick thrown through the window of her home, and she’d been called names such as “a man-hating ‘MeToo’ lesbian.”
But in November, the city elected two Black commissioners. Ananda said that was reflective of the community she knows Lawrence is.
“This needs celebrating — and it also requires that we hold one another accountable for ensuring that we do not let those few who choose to harass and harm those who represent us get away with that behavior without being held accountable,” she said.
Ananda was elected to a four-year term in 2017. She did not run for re-election as she decided to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare.
She challenged the commission to continue focusing on police reform to make the whole city safer, and to keep working to dismantle the criminalization of poverty.
Stuart Boley was elected three times to two-year terms on the city commission, but he did not win his bid for re-election in 2021, coming in fourth place in the Nov. 2 general election.
He wished the new commissioners luck and thanked family and friends who had supported him, as well as city staff for their dedication and professionalism.
“Thank you to the commissioners with whom I’ve served. We didn’t always agree, but our discussions have been amicable, and in that we have served the community well,” Boley said.
“A special thanks to Mike Amyx, who inspired and encouraged me to take up this work, and to Lisa Larsen, who has shared it with me for over six years,” he said.
“And last, thank you to the community for providing me with the opportunity to serve. It’s been a wonderful and memorable experience.”