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In 2019, Monica Horton served as deputy treasurer for Shurita Thomas-Tate’s successful Springfield school board campaign. The process took a lot of time and energy, but she says it helped shape her interest in influencing public policy at multiple levels.
“I believed in this candidate. I thought, I can do this and commit to this (yet) continue what I do in my work,” Horton says. “I loved it.”
Getting involved at a civic level didn’t start in 2019, however. Horton, who moved to Springfield in 2013, realized quickly she needed to get involved.
A starting point was reading through the Community Focus Report – what she calls a “holy grail” for the community – to discover the red flags and blue ribbons in the area. Teen homelessness jumped out to her, and she quickly connected with the Ozarks Alliance to End Homeless, Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc. and The Hope Connection.
It didn’t stop there. Horton is board president of Ujima Language and Literacy, for which she won the local NAACP Education Award for her service. She also serves as a board member of Leadership Springfield, a member of the Mayor’s Commission for Children and an appointee to the Greene County Senior Citizens’ Services Fund.
A role that Horton is still surprised, and honored, to hold is that of Springfield City Council member for Zone 1. One thing she’s proud of is working to secure $100,000 in federal funding toward restoration of the historic Lincoln Memorial Cemetery on the African American Heritage Trail.
“There’s no way in the world I thought I would be in an elected office,” she says. “It feels good to serve in this manner.”
Horton’s appointment in April 2022 was by a near unanimous vote from council members. She plans to run her own campaign to win a full term in 2023.
In her private practice, Lenica Consulting, she offers strategic planning and program evaluation services for nonprofits and has worked with the 2019 Latino Leadership Project and the 2021 African-American School to Prison Pipeline Study.
Horton says she has had a lot of inspiration and mentors to guide her along the way, crediting Francine Pratt, Janet Dankert, Gwen Marshall and others who have been on the front lines for years addressing poverty, educational disparities, homelessness and diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I am an extension of and operate in the spirit of their work in the community,” she says.
“I see myself as a helper, but I ended up at the forefront. I raised my hand and said, ‘Pick me.’”
In an effort to provide flexibility to their workers, some area businesses are beginning to offer four-day workweeks.
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