District 1 Metro Council member wants better communication from local government
Democrat and small business owner Tammy Hawkins is the new District 1 representative on Louisville Metro Council.
Hawkins was elected to the post in November, replacing Democrat Jessica Green who left Metro Council for a judgeship on the Jefferson County Circuit Court last January. Her district includes parts of the Parkland, Chickasaw and Park DuValle neighborhoods in Louisville’s West End.
Currently the owner and operator of Kids World DayCare and the Parkland Neighborhood Food Mart, Hawkins said she started her businesses after seeing the need in her community.
“In my district, it's really a food desert,” she said. “There's nowhere you can go and it’s affordable. That's important, affordable food.”
While campaigning for her Metro Council seat, Hawkins said many residents expressed concerns about public safety, including vehicle break-ins. She also heard complaints about the relationship between the Louisville Metro Police Department and the majority Black residents who live in her district.
A 2020 study produced by the Chicago-based firm Hillard Heintze found that the police department’s relationship with Black communities was “deeply strained,” and the city did not have a strategy for rebuilding trust.
Hawkins said she’s confident the new interim police chief, Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, can begin to move things in a better direction. Gwinn-Villaroel has promised to hold a series of community forums and refocus LMPD on “community policing.”
“I believe, after speaking with her and meeting with her, that she’ll bridge that gap,” Hawkins said. “I’m definitely a firm believer in giving people the opportunity to make a change, and I think we have to do that.”
LPM News’ Roberto Roldan recently spoke with Hawkins about the challenges in District One and how she hopes to improve communication between residents and Metro Government.
An excerpt of that interview, edited for length and clarity, is below:
Just to start out, can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to run for Metro Council, what it is about your background, your experiences in the community that made you want to say, ‘I want to get into public service’?”
I've had a passion for public service for quite some time. I started out as an LPN at the Brown Cancer Center. Then I opened up a childcare facility. I've had that for the last 15 years in Parkland. I opened up a grocery store. I've seen the need in a very underserved area. So from there, I spoke with a lot of other people that were doing a lot of public service work and they said, ‘Hey, Tammy, you ought to run for Metro Council!”
Your district, District 1, includes parts of the Parkland, Chickasaw, and Park Duvall neighborhoods in West Louisville. What are the needs in your district like?
In my district, it's really a food desert. There's nowhere you can go, and [it’s] affordable. That's important, affordable food. They have to travel to go to a grocery store. I just have a small amenity, you know, they're not able to get meats, produce, things like that. And nothing really stays open late in the West End.
When you don't have access to fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, to healthy foods, I feel like that would have an impact on the overall health of the community, too?
Definitely. Your lifespan is a lot shorter if you don't eat healthy.
I've heard you say that the city should do a better job of communicating with residents not only in District one, but in the West End in general. What do you mean by that?
Making sure and ensuring that the constituents have the knowledge, the processes, the procedures. They're just not privy to it. They can't get online, they don't have access to the internet, some of them don't even have access to computers. So, how do they get the knowledge? That is one of the main things that I definitely want to do is make sure that the constituents get the knowledge to understand the processes, the procedures of Metro government: who does what, who's responsible for what.
When you were knocking on doors in your district during the election, how often did you hear concerns around public safety? It seems to be the number one issue on everybody's mind right now.
One of the biggest concerns was they said that if the cars got broken into, you know, LMPD didn't show up quick. I'm a firm believer that we have to start policing our own neighborhoods. Get neighborhood block watch back, until we can get the new mayor to come in and bridge the gap with LMPD, more money in the budget for LMPD to be able to do the things that they need to do to get more employees, to get more cars. It's just a lot of components that play a big part in just bridging the whole gap.
I know this is your first time holding elected office, but do you have any immediate legislative priorities?
One of my biggest concerns is the youth. I feel like the kids are our future, and if we don't get a hold of our youth now… I believe that a youth detention center would be good with wrap-around service in it. Because a lot of our youth, they're in bad environments. And I’m not just saying lock them up. No, that's not the answer, locking them up. But a lot of the crimes are coming from the youth. If they commit a crime, LMPD actually has nowhere to take them. They take them home. That allows them to know ‘Hey, we can go do this again and we're just going home.’ So, a lot of the crime is due to not having the wraparound services, not having the detention centers.