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T HE WOMEN ’S I SSU E

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Jess Anderson

MAYO R P R O TEMPO RE O F C HA PEL HILL S E N I O R P O L I CY A N A LYST AT U N C-G R E EN SBO RO In 2015, Jess was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council; two years later, she was elected as Mayor Pro Tempore by her colleagues. During the day, she works as a senior policy analyst at UNC-Greensboro’s SERVE Center. Her husband, Karthik Shyam, is director of marketing communications for Duke Health’s Population Health Management Office. Their daughter, Elena, 5, attends Carrboro Elementary, and son Nico is 2. They also have a 9-year-old rescue pup named Dexter. 62

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May/June 2019

ess, who has lived in Chapel Hill for nine years, could not be more proud of how the town is growing. “We are an amazingly talented, educated, engaged community,” she says. This year, Jess brought together several groups – including the police chiefs of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, advocacy groups and members of the public – to discuss campaigning for common-sense gun safety legislation. “We had a really inspiring conversation about what we can do to save lives and where we should put our advocacy efforts,” she says. “I’ve always been a gun safety advocate, but after the Carrboro Elementary lockdown last year – when I spent about an hour wondering if my 5-year-old was alive or not – I felt it was really important to bring people together to not only talk about our shared experience, but [also to] look for practical, community-wide solutions.” Jess is also making an impact as a senior policy analyst at UNC–G, providing technical assistance to various communities around the country that are trying to end youth homelessness through coordinated plans. “My role is to help integrate education into the plan and help education stakeholders with trainings, materials, outreach and understanding the national education law that mandates various supports and services for students experiencing homelessness,” she explains. “We all have a responsibility to work for the rights and safety of our most disenfranchised friends and family. Anything I want for my family, I want for others.” A typical day for Jess could mean visiting Nashville, Tennessee, to assist with its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project, meeting with a Chapel Hill resident, attending an economic sustainability meeting or taming a tantrum at the grocery store. The common thread? Problem solving. Jess says that she loves “engaging residents in working toward our shared goals.” Though the outcomes are often positive, this work is not without its challenges. Given the trend of toxicity in the national dialogue, “It can be hard to refocus on solving problems together, rather than splitting into factions and entrenched positions,” Jess says. “But I think that’s a key responsibility of good elected leaders – to remind everyone that we are trying to work together, not win points against one another.” For those considering a career in the public sphere, Jess says it’s important to stay focused on what inspired them to pursue that job in the first place: “Make sure you know why you want to serve your community and what you want to accomplish; you can revisit your reasons any time you come across a tough issue and use them to recenter yourself.” She says this is especially important for young women, and encourages them to lean on their support system as they enter the workforce. “Look to people you trust to give you advice and support – you’ll need your team to help you through all sorts of challenges.” – Morgan Cartier Weston

Profile for Shannon Media

Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE

Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE