Inspiring People: Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan

For women who are either active or have a strong interest in politics, being able to see women in leadership is reassuring. Now, not all women have policies I agree with or advocate. Yet, it’s great to know that it’s possible for women to be in politics and still be people. And today’s inspiring person happens to be one of them.

This is Inspiring People and it’s what I do on Sundays here on The Black Urbanist to highlight people in the urbanism/local government/planning/placemaking/add your adjective here space to highlight how they inspire me as a person also in this space. I’m also dropping a book in a couple of weeks. A Black Urbanist-Essays Vol. 1 is my first stab at putting these thoughts on literal paper. I’ll be launching an e-edition via a site called Gumroad on December 1, which will present it as a PDF. Look for a print and mainstream e-book edition in the future. Either way, it’s a great way to support what I’m doing here at The Black Urbanist. Check it out here.

I have the good fortune of having had three women be mayor during my lifetime in my hometown. Raleigh, my college hometown, has elected a woman to her second term. And DC, my current favorite city, outside of the former two, just elected its next one. As of January of this year, there were 269 mayors of U.S. cities over 30,000 people. My mayor, Nancy Vaughan, is one. Both her and Nancy McFarlane are two of fourteen women mayors of cities over 200,000 people in population. I’ll be interested to see what this years numbers look like (please, someone tweet, Facebook or put a link to those numbers in the comments). Hence why I’ve decided to focus on Mayor Vaughan as my inspiring person this week.

When I was in Nashville two weeks ago, I was there for the CEOs for Cities National Meeting. I was in a delegation with several Greensboro leaders, including Mayor Vaughan. She was on the program and this picture captures a bit of her brief speech:


She’s done a lot of awesome things outside of just being mayor. She’s shown her love of hockey. She’s approachable on social media. She’s a good hostess (and I say this in the spirit of her just being a good hostess, not that she should be one, even though she’s also married to a former state senator and fellow city council member). Same spirit goes to her being an awesome mom and daughter. Oh, and speaking of social media, as of this writing, I just saw where she’d volunteered to help build some tiny houses here in Greensboro.

I was most proud of her in this moment shown above, when she presented about her efforts to end poverty in Greensboro and to develop regional collaboration, having worked on a portion of this initiative with Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines.

I’ve gone to plenty urbanism/good governance conferences and poverty’s still, if not a taboo subject, one that is controversial and one that doesn’t bring out the happy feelings. Trust me, I gave a poverty-focused speech to a group of local government leaders in Fort Lauderdale when I was there recently. People there spoke of my convictions and of it being a provocative speech. Other conferences I’ve attended discuss the subject, but often nothing is done outside of discussion.

Yet, here was my mayor discussing it, in the midst of other mayors presenting more happy-go-lucky “we saved our city” topics.

We have a ways to go in Greensboro with fixing our issues, but so do even some of those “happy-go-lucky” cities. And I’m proud to know and admire my mayor, who is doing a great job of moving us forward.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.