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Meet Treaka Young: Jeff City's First Black Councilwoman aims to empower all constituents

Kat Ramkumar

It’s election night, and Treaka Young has been pulled aside to do an interview during her watch party. In the middle of the interview, people in the other room start to cheer and clap.

She returns to the party, and one of her staffers lets her know that she’s just one district away from winning a seat on the City Council in Jefferson City. She begins to pace around the room — talking to supporters as she goes.

She gestures to people who have been influential in her campaign. Despite the energy in the room, Young shows a bit of nerves, saying she didn’t think it would be this close.

As the excitement in the room grows, Young, some of her staff members and supporters crowd around a phone looking at election results. The last district has come in.

Her work has paid off. Young has just made history as the first Black woman to be elected to the City Council in Jefferson City. This comes 45 years after voters elected Randy Halsey, the first Black council member, in 1979.

She jumps for joy, grabbing her campaign manager. It quickly turns into a miniature press conference.

“A minority woman has never been able to tread in this community so I hope that just by watching me it’s giving someone hope,” Young said. “It’s giving someone encouragement to move forward and it’s giving them what they need to know that they are a part of this community too.”

Kat Ramkumar

Helping people find resources

Residents who talk with Young for any amount of time are bound to hear her use the word “impact.” She said she aims to maximize how much she can help others with each new position she takes on.

Young grew up in St. Louis and said her mother did her best for her children, but there were many times when her family went without.

“I asked my mother ‘why did we go so alone when all these agencies could have helped us.’ And her one reply, I’ll never forget, was ‘I didn’t know,’” Young said.

Treaka Young was elected last month to the Jefferson City City Council, but previously worked as an ombudsman for the state. A long-term care ombudsman is often a volunteer who helps families and individuals ensure their rights and needs are being respected and preserved in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. Treaka spoke a little about an ombudsman’s role and how people can reach out to them for help.

She launched a long and busy career of helping people find and obtain resources. One of those roles was working as an ombudsman, where she worked to help advocate for those in nursing homes. Young said whenever she found a way to have a greater impact, she took it.

Young said she applied the same philosophy to her campaign by prioritizing a community she saw as underserved. She said it was important for her to knock on every door in that community first.

“The numbers show that they don’t vote. I said I don’t care. One thing I know about people. They don’t vote because of two things: they don’t feel engaged and they don’t feel valued,” Young said.

A few weeks after election night, on April 15, Young was sworn in as a Ward Three council member in Jefferson City.

‘Always been a go-getter’

In the audience celebrating the election victory, Young has family in the crowd. One of them is her older sister, Carla Holmes.

“She’s the youngest of six children and she has always been a go-getter,” Holmes said. “To see this happen, it just puts the icing on the cake for us as a family.”

Young said now that she’s on the council, she hopes all Jefferson City residents will feel empowered and more open to sharing their life experiences and concerns with the council.

“You don’t have to explain every little thing, just tell me what you need and I’ll see what I can do to help you get there,” Young said.

Young said that in the future she hopes more people from all communities will be inspired to find a place where they can make a difference in their community.

“Everything is not for everyone, but there’s a place for everyone and there’s something everyone could do,” Young said.

Additional audio recording done by Producer Kat Ramkumar.

Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.
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