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Learn more about Richmond Mayoral Candidate Michelle Mosby
This serial entrepreneur and history-making politician wants to lead Richmond, Virginia into a new chapter. (Source: Michelle Mosby’s campaign)

Michelle Mosby’s approach to public service? Treat it like customer service.

That makes sense for Mosby, 55, of Richmond, Virginia—after all, she’s founded several people-focused startups over the years. In 2008, she founded the nonprofit Help Me Help You Foundation to help recently incarcerated people reintegrate into society, and she remains its president today. (Virginia actually has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country.) She also owns Richmond’s International Hair Salon, which she opened in 2001 and still runs herself. And since 2016, she’s worked as a real estate agent in the area.

She is now using these years of customer-focused work in her candidacy for mayor of Richmond.

She also brings years of experience in public service – she served on the Richmond City Council from 2012 to 2016 and made history when she was named the first black president of the City Council in 2015. “You feel something inside of you like, ‘Am I worthy? Is this the role I should be taking on?'” she noted of the historic moment.

But with time and opportunities, “I was able to accomplish great things,” she says. Those accomplishments include building new schools, investing in improving Richmond’s riverfront and making significant improvements to local transit.

Mosby, who is running as an independent, faces four other competitors this Election Day. The current mayor, Levar Stoney, a Democrat, has reached his seat limit and is currently seeking a run for lieutenant governor of Virginia. To bolster her campaign, she has secured a number of endorsements from a number of local and state political, civic and religious leaders, as well as organizations like Higher Heights that support progressive black women running for office.

Mosby believes that “Richmond needs someone focused on them in the next chapter.” She adds that she has no ambitions for any higher office than mayor – this is the top of the career ladder, not a stepping stone. She believes that “this is exactly what Richmond needs and deserves – someone focused on its policies, its initiatives and its people.”

People-centered work

Mosby is a native Virginian who also attended college in the state, Virginia Union University and Norfolk State University, graduating in 1990. She then focused on local activism efforts and caring for her daughter, Mesha, now 33, before diving into startup life in 2001, opening her salon to provide jobs to job-seeking neighbors.

Mosby’s run for office was born out of that same community-minded spirit. After attempting to meet with her city council to discuss recidivism rates—and failing to schedule a meeting despite numerous attempts—she decided to run for a seat on the board herself. She won her election to Richmond City Council in 2012—with 64 percent of the vote against a veteran politician.

Her time in that position was a learning curve, she says, particularly in terms of managing a city budget — a very different caliber than the budget she had previously managed, she says. But the budget is where things get done, she adds. So Mosby made it her mission to understand it all — an effort that paid off, as she and her team achieved annual budget surpluses and increased the city’s credit rating. Those results were no fluke, Mosby says. “I was at every (budget) meeting,” she recalls.

When she left council in 2016, she made her first bid for mayor of Richmond, but lost to current Mayor Stoney. So she returned to the private sector, continuing her entrepreneurial and nonprofit work while maintaining the connections and partnerships she made during her time in office. That kind of intentionality around relationships is the kind of spirit that “makes great things happen in communities,” she says — and the “things necessary for a great leader.”

Now she’s trying to take that leadership role in Richmond again. In conversations with potential voters, issues like inadequate city services, diminished public safety and a lack of affordable housing have been cited as top concerns. That’s why a big goal of Mosby’s is to “instigate a cultural change at City Hall… around customer service and excellence.” She says applying for government assistance should be “a customer-friendly experience.”

She also aims to “bridge the gap between law enforcement and society.” She says police are a necessity, but knows that police don’t always use sound judgment when they arrive on the scene — to say the least. “I could list the experiences of people of my color — of those who have been killed by police officers.” Her goal, she adds, is to root out the bad guys while improving police-citizen relations.

And she also places a priority on protecting reproductive rights, “making sure I will always protect clinics across the city.”

Most of all, she wants to see her neighbors’ lives visibly and tangibly change for the better under her leadership. “When my four years are up,” Mosby says, “I want the people of Richmond to be able to say, ‘Oh, we really made a difference.'”