The City of Hampton lost a council member when Councilwoman Angela Leary resigned this week due to health reasons. With that resignation the citizens of Hampton have lost one of their most vigilant supporters. Many people usually run for office as a stepping stone to a higher office or because of concern for a specific issue. Angela once told me she ran because she saw things wrong with the local government that she thought she could change. Her goal was to make things better for the citizens. She succeeded on many levels.
When public meetings were held but not videoed or there was not adequate seating for the public she would very vocally criticize the process. Usually that type of thing was not repeated after her vocal concern. When certain members of council were trying to limit citizen input she started holding public town hall meetings and let all the citizens speak. One of the first ones I went to was so well attended people had to take turns standing outside the room so others could enter to speak. She would listen to all sides and let people present their concerns of an issues. She would meet with people outside of the council meeting so she could hear more than just three minutes of their concerns. When she first got on council people would comment that she was often one of the only council members who had responded to their emails. It was frequent that I would get a response from an email at 2 or 3 am in the morning because she was trying to respond to all the citizens emails. People contacted her because they knew she would look into an issue even if she had to drive out and visit the site they were referring to. She may not have always agreed with them but people felt like she listened and legitimately considered their concerns. I look back now and see the effects of her actions. Soon other council members also started having town hall meetings and listening to the citizens on issues. Now several people on council respond to many of the emails from citizens.
She also championed the troubles caused by flooding in Hampton. She did not just show up after a flood to tour neighborhoods and state something needed to be done only then to not be heard from again till the next flood. She sat with many groups and neighborhoods that flooded and tried to look for solutions. She made sure the issue kept coming in front of council even between the flooding events. She helped citizens who were not in the flood areas realize why it was so important to fix the water issues in Hampton. Now Hampton is seriously looking at this issue and trying to develop a plan to address the many water problems.
However, the biggest accomplishment she achieved was getting citizens involved. She remembered the people who emailed or called her about issues. When opportunities came up like a citizen group she would approach those people and say “You want things to change here is your chance to be involved and do something about it.” I know this as I was one of many she talked into being involved with the city on trying to fix certain issues. She would get people to quit looking at what was good for them personally and instead what was good for the city as a whole.
I would say that Councilwoman Leary’s legacy is not the 7+ years she was on council but instead are all the people she brought together to engage with the city to help come up with solutions. She will be missed. Hopefully, Council Members who follow in her foot steps will see the need for not only being a champion of citizen engagement but also the importance for being an advocate for the citizens.