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ELECTION 2014: Candidate Hunte would establish youth commission

Sonya Hunte

Sonya Hunte

COVINGTON — After living in Newton County for 13 years, Sonya Hunte has decided that it’s time to put her talents to use in an official capacity.

Hunte, who works as the homeless education liaison for Atlanta Public Schools, is seeking election to the District 4 seat on the Newton County Board of Commissioners. She’ll oppose longtime Commissioner J.C. Henderson in the May 20 Democratic Primary. Since there are no Republicans running for the post, the primary winner will have the job.

“This is my first time running for public office,” Hunte, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., said. “I have lived in my community for almost 13 years and I really felt there was a need for increased citizen engagement, via town hall meetings, a safe place where residents could voice their concerns they have in the community.

“As I volunteered in the community, I saw a real need for my skill set. My skill set is a marriage between a knowledge of federal grants and budgets, and meeting human, family and community needs.”

Perhaps the most intriguing item on Hunte’s agenda as a commissioner is the establishment of a youth commission, which would instruct young citizens on developing “soft skills” while impressing upon them the importance of investing in their community.

“I’ve been a children’s advocate for 13 years and I’m interested in giving teens and preteens soft skills to lead them to careers in public service,” said Hunte, who has been recognized by Georgia Trend magazine and the Atlanta Business Chronicle as a “40 Under 40” honoree. “Fulton and DeKalb counties have youth commissions. You start small, picking 20 eighth-12th graders, young people who have an interest in serving the public.

“We would nurture them, helping them understand local government, volunteerism. When a youth volunteers, it’s an investment in his own community. We would give them soft skills, like networking, and college- and career-readiness.”

Hunte, who last year was selected as president-elect of the National Association of Social Workers, also points to increased job creation in the area, envisioning an initiative that promotes “economic development drivers — like skills development, transportation assistance and child-care solutions for local workers. She says she’s also heard from constituents of the need for improved roads and the introduction of speed bumps in some neighborhoods in the district.

As an observer of county commission meetings, Hunte said her leadership style would mesh well with those of her colleagues.

“…when you’re new to anything there’s always going to be a learning curve,” said Hunte, who earned a degree in sociology from Penn State and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston College. “I will be moving from being an outsider to being an insider. That will come with a learning curve of learning the culture of how things work. I’ve always been a collaborative leader, which fosters unity in any environment I work in. I think I will fit in well.”

She added that she admires Henderson but is responding to the call she hears for change.

“Commissioner Henderson has been around for 18 years and has been a staple in the community, and I think that’s a great thing,” she said. “I do believe that from canvassing and hearing people and hearing from the community, it’s time for new leadership. The people are wanting more and my skill set would be a great match in terms of moving Newton County forward.

“I believe in holistic approaches to service. Joining the commission, there will be a small learning curve, but I think like a collaborative leader taking on a holistic approach. It’s about representing your district, but it’s also about representing Newton County as a whole. You have to keep the collective whole in mind.”

With a campaign slogan of “Leading, Listening, Doing,” Hunte says her first political foray is going well and she added she’s already gained something very valuable from her time on the stump.

“I’ve enjoyed going door to door and hearing the concerns of the people,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed a meet-and-greet in the community. I’ve enjoyed meeting with citizens one on one. I’ve attended lots of local school events to hear what parents really want from the county that’s raising their children.

“The residents I’ve met have been stealing my heart. I’m a public servant and they know I have their best interest in mind.”

For more information, visit www.sonyahunte.com.