We had the good fortune of connecting with Honorable Kelli Ann Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Honorable Kelli Ann, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The quote “No risk, no reward” comes to mind. Last year, I took a huge risk in my career. I decided to take of leave of absence in the summer to run for a position on my local community council. Being a organizer, I had strong relationships with members of my community, political knowledge, and experience in electoral politics. My background gave me the confidence to stop working and campaign. However, I did have to sacrifice. Not working for 3 months was tough on me financially. I exhausted my savings and had to borrow money from my parents. Also, campaigning during a global pandemic was uncharted territory overall for politics. Knocking doors and talking to voters are proven tactics of winning an election. However, doing those activities would put myself and voters at risk of transmitting COVID-19. Thankfully, I was elected despite those challenges and proudly serve as a board member on Community Council 14, Subarea 144 in unincorporated South Miami-Dade County. In taking a risk, there is always the possibility of failing. Usually the fear of failure holds people back from trying something new or chasing their dreams. In running for office, I had an opportunity to have the power to directly improve my community. That desire was stronger than my fears of losing the race. Thankfully, the risk paid off and I hold the honor of being elevated from an engaged citizen to elected official.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Generally speaking, I work in the political field. My journey started back in 2014, with the murder of Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. My outrage at the manner of his death motivated me to attend my first protest against police violence with the Dream Defenders. I continued to remain activated, participating in various marches, attending town halls, and growing a passion for movement work in general. In 2018, I was hired as a community organizer with New Florida Majority (now Florida Rising). In that position, I became politically educated. Learning about grassroots organizing, various ideologies, and engaging with elected officials at local and state levels of government exposed me to a world I didn’t know existed. Having knowledge of the political system and a desire for change, I took a leap of faith and ran for community council last summer. Thankfully I was elected! So, I serve as a board member on Community Council 14 in south unincorporated Miami-Dade county. My occupation is Lead Organizer of Miami-Dade County with Florida Rising. What sets me apart from others is strong faith and fearlessness. Running for public office is a huge risk, and I had to leave my stable position at work to campaign. Serving on community council is really fascinating. I’m learning a lot about how land use and development shape the way we live, and governing over that decision making process is a serious responsibility. Politics isn’t easy at all. Despite the difficulties, belief in positive change and my community keeps me going. I want folks to know that I’m just a working mom who hates injustice towards others. I’m called to do this work because everyone deserves access to living in a safe, healthy environment with the resources needed to ensure high quality of life. Politics became my lane to make a difference.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When my best friends visit Miami, I would take them to Vibe After 5 at the Urban in Overtown. It’s the best spot on a Friday night for happy hour, hip hop, and R&B music to dance to. To unwind, I love Empire Pizza Lounge in South Miami. They have the best hookah, awesome staff, and happy hour specials every day of the week. Blackbird Ordinary in Brickell is a great lounge also that plays a variety of music. Dom’s in Brickell on Wednesday, for ladies night. Free drinks and the ambiance is amazing!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many factors have played a role in my success! My current organization Florida Rising (formerly The New Florida Majority) equipped me with the political skills, the access to elected officials, and their endorsement during my campaign helped give me the exposure I needed to win. Sen. Dwight Bullard, has been an unofficial mentor over the years and saw the potential in me as an young activist to be hired as a political organizer. Cameo Parrish, a working class mom from the neighborhood of Naranja, tirelessly advocates for improving public transportation in South Dade. She is an inspiration. Organizing alongside her I have witnessed the change regular citizens can make in holding government accountable. My home church, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, where I’ve been a member since the age of 13. My pastor T.T. Shellman and church family have always supported the campaigns I worked for as an organizer. Their prayers and support gave me the spiritual strength to persevere thorough the rough patches in my campaign. Finally, my partner at the time. His political acumen and network laid a strong foundation for my campaign, and underneath his guidance I was able to win my election.
Carrie Feit Photography AP Wilfriedo Lee
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