Letter to the Editor: Reflection from Town Councilwoman Katie Anderson

Katie Anderson, Town Councilwoman

As we start this new year, we are inclined to say “good riddance” to the year that just passed. Rather than throw 2020 away outright, I am grateful for the new perspective it gave me. 2020 taught me the importance of community, and the strength of those who comprise it. When times got tough, our North Kingstown community members showed not only kindness, but resolve. We resolved to make our community kinder, more equitable, and more resilient. 

I witnessed this commitment to community in my 2020 campaign for town council. I first decided to run while participating at a North Kingstown Black Lives Matter rally. I was inspired by those around me who were all asking the same question: how can we do more to make our community better? 

As I began campaigning, I realized that all around me, people were asking that question in different facets of their lives. I met small business owners who were giving to the food pantry, or bringing groceries to those who were homebound. I met climate change activists who help our waterfront town prepare for rising seas and become more sustainable. I met housing advocates who speak out for safe, affordable, quality housing for all residents, and who seek respect and empathy for those who have fallen on hard times. I met older adults who, despite having no children in our school systems, considered it a moral imperative to afford the next generation a top-notch education. And I met North Kingstown High School students who planned rallies for black lives, spoke out at municipal meetings, volunteered at polling places, and advocated for a set of policies that would enhance the lives and the rights of students. 

Campaigning leant me a unique perspective in getting to see how these parts made a whole. Each time I met someone working for a better community, the person would humbly tell me, “oh, I’m not doing much – just doing my small part.” I got to witness how these pieces can work together, and can collectively inspire larger-scale change. 

Community means something different to all of us. To me, it’s about a sense of unity — of recognizing that we are all connected, and acting on that recognition by noticing and attending to the needs of our friends, neighbors, and families. In North Kingstown, as in “Cheers” (a show before all of our times), it feels good to be in a place where it often feels that everybody knows your name. Others will also note the importance of green spaces, small businesses, equity, access to basic needs (including fresh foods, healthcare, and housing), education, public safety, infrastructure, and social services. Given my work in behavioral healthcare, I also see the importance of bringing mental health considerations to the forefront when discussing community health.

In 2020, we gained a sharpened and renewed focus on the community we cherish and the community we envision. I am bringing that combination of gratitude and purpose with me into my work in 2021. I invite you all to join me. We learned last year that students have powerful voices, and that, when you speak, people will listen. How will you use your voice to impact your community? Where can you lend your passions, talents, or interests? By bringing our authentic selves to a task – be it creating art, volunteering, performing small acts of kindness, protesting, or reading out to someone in need – we enhance our community. As I learned in 2020, we all have an important part to play.