Hoping to serve her hometown that she loves, Harriett Jennings Claiborne is running for South Boston Town Council in the May 19 election.
She is one of three newcomers and six overall candidates on the ballot, running for three seats on council.
“I am running because I feel that I will be able to offer representation to a vast cross-section of our community. While South Boston is prospering, I feel that there are certain sectors of the community that have issues that need to be addressed,” Claiborne said. “I feel further that South Boston should be portrayed over the web and through advertisement as a diverse community with all different types of races, cultures and people to give the world notice that South Boston welcomes everyone to live or visit its town.”
Claiborne shared that the issue that prompted her to run for town council is her concern about the “inequitable treatment, which has been given to our youth, especially the young black males.
“This is not a matter of race,” Claiborne explained. “It is a concern about fair treatment no matter what race a person is. This is something that I feel needs to be corrected in order that any citizen, whether young or old, black or white, or any other ethnic groups are involved.”
Attracting more young professionals to South Boston is another one of Claiborne’s goals, if elected as a town councilwoman.
“I hope, along with other council members, to implement programs and advance economic and industrial development to make the town more attractive for the return of our young citizens and to bring more young professionals and youth into the community,” Claiborne said. “This is vital to the future of our community.”
Claiborne works at Halifax County High School, where she is an administrative assistant to assistant principal Ryan Russell. She said her conversations with the students have given her insights about what the town needs to do to get them to return to South Boston after college and raise their families here.
The town council candidate also aims to get community members more involved in the town government.
“I hope to bring the community closer together in regards to the neighborhoods and different organizations and have more diverse involvement of different sectors of the community in town government,” Claiborne said.
Although she would be a newcomer to town council, Claiborne has served on the South Boston Planning Commission for 18 years and is a past member of the Vision 20/20 committee for the town of South Boston. She also is a member of First Baptist Church on Ferry Street, where she serves on numerous choirs and in several church organizations.
Claiborne is proud of her South Boston upbringing. She was raised in the Wagon Factory/Churchill community. She graduated from Washington Coleman Elementary School and Mary M. Bethune High School. Claiborne also is a graduate of Averett University, where she holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She also has completed one year toward a master of business administration degree at Averett.
Claiborne is married to attorney William Bryant Claiborne, who is a member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors. The couple has one child, LaNessa E. West, who is assistant head of the lower school at The Collegiate School in Richmond, and one son-in-law, Dr. Nathaniel D. West, assistant professor of religion in the theology department at Virginia Union University in Richmond. The couple also has two grandchildren, Nathan West, who is a rising sophomore at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, and Nadia West, who is a rising senior at The Collegiate School in Richmond.
Claiborne also has three siblings, Edith Cawthon, Henry Jennings Jr. and Pastor Hayward Jennings, who are current South Boston residents.
All in all, Claiborne said she loves people, loves her hometown and wants to see it grow and prosper.
“I am progressive, and I want to see South Boston move forward in order to enhance future growth,” Claiborne said.