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APSU faculty member wins City Council seat

December 3, 2002

Austin Peay faculty member Ann Henderson will play an important role in the city's future. An accounting professor for the last two and a half years, Henderson was elected by residents of Ward 6 to represent them on the City Council.

Ward 6 also happens to be the electoral division of the University.

Henderson says the decision to run wasn't part of a long, carefully thought-out plan. Though she and her husband, Allen, also a member of the Austin Peay faculty, served on numerous boards and worked with several area organizations since their move in 1994, neither had considered running for office—until last year. That's when an important decision by another Ward 6 resident prompted an equally momentous decision by Henderson.

"I found out Councilman Mark Holleman wasn't planning to run again," she says. "Mark had been supportive of appropriate downtown redevelopment, and I wanted those efforts to continue.

"I tried to get some of our neighbors to run. They weren't interested. So I just decided to do it myself."

Henderson sees the future of Ward 6 as pivotal to the city's progress. "Ward 6 includes downtown, the Red River district, Lincoln Homes, College Street and New Providence. It has a lot to gain from redevelopment of the downtown area."

As a council member, Henderson can expect constituents to whine, complain, charm and even throw tantrums to get what they want. But as the mother of four children, 3, 7, 10 and 12, she's used to that.

She also will have to ask for money, build consensus and explain why some decisions are better than others. She says just getting into the race gave her some practice in those areas.

"I had to get a certain number of signatures, and all of them had to be from registered voters. Then I had to turn those in to the Election Commission. And I had to raise some money. Thank goodness, it wasn't a lot.

"The most important thing was meeting the people in the ward. There are 1,800 homes. I visited about 90 percent of them."

The whirlwind of pre-election activities culminated Tuesday evening, Nov. 5. While Allen watched the children, Ann Henderson went to the Election Commission to watch the numbers. "It was just me, one other candidate and members of the media," she says. "They found out who I was, and when the votes starting coming in, they cheered me on."

Her first post-victory call was to her husband. Her second? "To my dad in Knoxville. His father was a mayor and city councilman."

Though her official "reign" doesn't begin until January, Henderson has begun preparing for her new role. She's met with Wilbur Barry, the finance commissioner for the city, and has scheduled a meeting with the new mayor, Don Trotter. "I also hope to meet with department heads and the city attorney," she says.

At the top of her concerns: zoning, land use, downtown development and crime. "People in New Providence have taken measures to reduce crime. I'd like to help them in some way. I want to see what the city can do to make it better."

Making it better is, after all, why she decided to run.