New Warsaw Town Commissioner Valerie Nelson: First African-American Woman on Boardby Cash Michaels December 12, 2017
Newly-elected Warsaw Town Commissioner Valerie Nelson, the first African-American woman ever to sit on the town board, and the first write-in candidate in Warsaw’s history, wants everyone to know that she plans to speak her mind while serving on the six-member board for the next four-years, and plans to work hard to improve the quality of life for all residents there.
Nelson, 43, married with four daughters, and a Democrat, is one of three blacks currently serving, including the newly-elected mayor. She expects to be a proud grandmother this month, and is going back to school to earn her high school diploma, graduating in 2018.
She hopes to own her own restaurant, eventually.
“This is my first time stepping out there,” Commissioner Nelson said, referring to her Nov. 7th write-in victory. “The Lord told me to do it.”
Her campaign objectives were “…to bridge the gap between youth and authority; establish youth outreach programs; and create a basic living program.”
Given the emerging diversity of the citizenry, Nelson says, there is a need for more inclusion, unity and fairness when it comes to having a voice in the direction and future of the town.
That last aspect – fairness – is key, Nelson says.
Currently, the water bills are more expensive on one side of town versus the other, and only one group of citizens are “selected” to skip paying their water charges once a year, not everyone. The residents “with the beautiful houses” are paying less than those who don’t. Roads are either being fixed or constructed in predominately white areas of the town, and nowhere else.
“In other areas, the streets will tear up your car, they’re so bumpy and neglected,” Nelson added, saying having grown up in Warsaw, it hadn’t always been this way.
“These are some of the things that caught my eye on how the town was deteriorating on one side.”
Add to that the fact that the economy in Warsaw is anemic, with a dearth of jobs, home sales down and a few new businesses opening up soon, but not nearly enough to spur significant growth.
“It’s a start,” Nelson assures. “But I’m looking for more.”
Warsaw’s citizenry is 75% African-American, Commissioner Nelson says, even though three of the five commission members, excluding the mayor, are white. Voter apathy in the past, and even now, is to blame, Nelson says, and nothing can change until residents get out and vote.
Apparently some folks in Warsaw agreed with Nelson’s platform and priorities, and with just 4% of the total vote on Nov. 7th, as a write-in candidate (the other write-ins received less), Valerie Nelson found herself elected to the Warsaw Town Commission, along with the Warsaw’s first African-American mayor, Rev. A. J. Connors, senior pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.
Commissioner Nelson is also an associate minister at Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church, and a singer, and was popular in Warsaw long before she ran for office because she’s always given back to the community, she says. Nelson also offers free afternoon tutoring for children at the restaurant that she manages, as well as feed them.
“I’m always doing fundraisers to give stuff away [from the restaurant] in the community,” she continued, helping last summer at least 500 children during a Back-to-School Bash. Such outreach efforts gave Warsaw residents, especially those who ate at her restaurant, a good sense of what Nelson was all about.
Commissioner Nelson also “hit the streets walking…,” knocking on doors, meeting people, and going into neighborhoods no one had ever campaigned in before.
Now she intends to parlay that good will into positive action for citizens on the town commission. Nelson said she met a lot of citizens who felt forgotten and left out of any positive direction the town was going in. She says now that she’s on the town board, “we all matter.”
“We all want to see a better Warsaw,” Commissioner Nelson added, though she admits that each commissioner has a different vision as to bring that about, meaning that she is going to have work harder to build a consensus for hr vision.
“I see a better Warsaw for all people,” Commissioner Valerie Nelson said. “I do!”