This was a historic appointment, as Richardson-Woods is the first Black woman to serve on McKinney City Council.
Richardson-Woods had formerly been serving as the treasurer of the McKinney Community Development Corp. board. She will serve as the interim District 1 council member until the seat expires in May. She has expressed that she will not run for council during the upcoming spring election period.
Richardson-Woods replaces Chris Thornton, who was appointed Dec. 1 only to be disqualified from serving District 1 following the discovery that his residency was roughly 10 feet outside district borders.
Richardson-Woods was a favored name among residents of east McKinney during discussions with the city and the runner-up to Thornton during these discussions. She is also involved in the Collin County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Far North Dallas Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, and the Collin County Chapter of the NAACP, according to the MCDC website.
Community Impact Newspaper spoke with Richardson-Woods in January about her new role and how she plans to lead the city over the next few months.
What are you looking forward to with serving on City Council?
I think as a double minority I bring a valuable perspective that is needed on the council at this time. I want to ensure the proposals and actions that meet the community needs for public services and programs, economic and community development are met. And ensuring equitable distribution of resources across the city, in particular in communities where it's needed the most. For me as a female, and specifically a Black female, I want to bring diversity to the council to ensure other female leaders in the community are afforded opportunities to serve at the highest level in the community. We're living here; we're raising our children here. So I think it is important that our children see minority women and females in leadership, serving civic leader opportunities, and also I just want to promote and foster an inclusive spirit, where more minorities feel that their talents and skill sets are valued.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the city over the next year or two?
The biggest challenges that I've noticed are workforce and affordable housing options, such as starter home options for very low-, low- and moderate-income buyers. ... The average starter home in McKinney is no less than $250,000, and that does not necessarily get you a modern-day home. I think addressing some of the food desert and service disparities on the east side of McKinney are some of the challenges that we face. Transportation, and also the compassion of addressing the concerns of the diverse and the rich culture and history of McKinney. We have a rich culture of African Americans, the Hispanic community, and we need to ensure that that compassion is carried on into the decisions that are made in the city. I think some of the challenges that we've had in the last couple of years are transparency, trust, accountability and providing adequate and trade employment opportunities for individuals in the community. Also, creating partnerships with employers and new employers to create a second chance, re-entry career path program for felons. They want to work, too. They want to contribute. And I think it's important because they add to the sales tax and the tax base in our community. When new industries are coming here, if there are not opportunities to offer employment to those individuals who are looking for a second chance then I don't think we're doing our community a service.
What would you like to see from the residents of District 1?
I would ask the constituents of District 1 to get involved. Not when it's just a hot topic that interests them, but to stay involved on all topics because District 1 is more than just the east side of Highway 5—District 1 crosses over west of [US] 75. So I would encourage that all constituents be engaged in everything that is happening in the city because it ultimately can roll over into the community and the city as a whole. So I think it is important that they look for opportunities to lead. You don't just have to be a business owner; you don't just have to be a high-ranking official to make change in the community. One of the things I will be sharing when I get the opportunity to do some type of town hall or some type of introduction meeting with them is to say, “We need you here in the good times, the bad times and in the ugly times. We need you here all the time, not just when it's a hot topic that interests you at the moment.” So I just think the inclusiveness of being engaged in the things that are happening in our community is imperative.
How has it been to work with the other members of City Council?
They’ve been extremely welcoming. I've had some professional relationships with some of the council members before this, but everyone has been nothing but helpful, answering any questions that I have. They welcomed me with open arms. I just try to focus on the business at hand; I try not to get caught up on how somebody personally may feel about me, because I'm focusing on the facts. And anytime you focus on the facts, you can't worry about someone else not liking you because of the color of your skin or your gender or race. I believe I am very transparent in my views and how I want to see progression. So at this point I have not felt any type of unwelcoming spirit by the council. I've got nothing but positive vibes from the community. Everyone has been so helpful and saying, “Let us know what you need. We are so excited to have you.” And that means a lot, because coming into the role under the circumstances, there was some apprehension. But then I have to realize, District 1’s voice needs to be heard. They and I need it. I feel like if not me, then who? If not now, then when? So that's my thought process, and I just hope that I can, in these next five or six months, be able to do what they have asked me to do and be the voice and the leader that they are wanting for District 1 in the city of McKinney.