‘We Got This!’
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole aims to drop the ‘Pro Tem’
By Michael King,
4:00PM, Sat. May 31, 2014
Bringing an official end to the worst kept secret in local politics, this afternoon on the shady front lawn of Hugh and Sandi Bender, opposite Lee Elementary School, Council incumbent Cole officially announced that she is indeed running for mayor of Austin, under the theme of “One Austin United Moving Forward.”
About 100 people gathered to hear the candidate, who had chosen this spot to mark the recent end of her “10-district house party tour” and because Lee holds special meaning for her. Her three now-grown sons – Femi, Nelson, and Marcus – had each attended the school, and she began her public work there as a PTA mom and eventually PTA president. “Some of the best lessons I’ve learned,” she told the crowd, “are from the PTA.”
That personal history was also noted by sixth-grade Lee teacher Julie Brown, who spoke of meeting Cole as a nervous school mom who grew into a confident school leader who “maintained her cool” and was “committed to the children and to the belief that everyone needed to be heard.” Brown was followed by Dick Perrone of the Onion Creek Homeowners Association, who briefly summarized Cole’s career as a CPA, attorney, and public official, and praised her attention to both the residents and the departmental details in the aftermath of last fall's Halloween flood.
Cole acknowledged some familiar faces in the crowd – her family, her pastor Rev. Joe Parker, the NAACP's Nelson Linder, longtime Dem activist Cecilia Crossley – and recalled arriving at Lee to enroll her eldest son, Femi. Her obvious maternal anxiety was reassured by new teacher Brown – “Ms. Cole, we got this!” – and that became the theme of her announcement speech.
“There are some debts you can never pay back,” Cole said. “You can only pay them forward.”
Cole cited her proudest public accomplishments as attempts to do just that: the Waller Creek Project (“a park-like, family-friendly setting Downtown”); the campaign for the successful 2013 affordable housing bond (“we are one as a city”); her sponsorship of ordinances supporting marriage equality and paycheck equity; her work on “heavy-lifting” Council committees like Audit and Finance and the Comprehensive Plan, all under the theme of “engaging [Austinites] with information and a voice.”
Cole said her 10-district tour redirected her perspective to re-emphasize that the focus of politics must be “the people you are there to serve,” and she looks to the new 10-1 system to help the Council “embrace that concept.” She said she was impressed by the ideas and energy people brought to her house parties, from new neighborhood trails to traffic solutions, and called on her audience to respond, “We got this!”
Cole said the new mayor must be one less interested in raising his own voice than in “raising all our voices,” who will gather the "creativity, talent, and brainpower" of Austinites to "move the city forward."
“I want to be that mayor,” Cole declared, “and I am ready to be that mayor!” Her audience responded loudly and enthusiastically to each of her questions on crucial issues facing the city – water, traffic, diversity, etc. – “We got this, Sheryl!”
Cole closed by noting that “stronger neighborhood associations make stronger neighborhoods, stronger PTAs make stronger schools, stronger citizen engagement makes a stronger city.” She asked her supporters to “commit to one Austin,” and they responded by shouting, “We got this, Sheryl!”
Cole becomes the fifth officially declared candidate in the Austin mayor's race. Already declared are attorney Steve Adler, incumbent Council Member Mike Martinez, rancher/musician Todd Phelps, and aviation mechanic/businessman Randall Stephens. Official filing for the November municipal election begins July 21.
We'll have more on Cole's candidacy in this week's print edition; for more information on all the candidates, visit the Chronicle's election page.