Now that she has made history in Waynesboro, Ga., as the city’s first black and female mayor, Pauline Jenkins is free to reveal the secret to her success: her shoes.
“Every Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, I put my sneakers on and got my little bag and started knocking on doors,” she said Thursday. “And I’d do it on Sunday after church, too, up until the day of the election.”
A few front porch visits might have won Jenkins the Dec. 6 runoff election, in which she beat incumbent George DeLoach by just seven votes, according to recount tallies. She said many of her black supporters were registered voters, but sometimes didn’t turn out to vote.
As mayor – her term begins Jan. 2 – she doesn’t want her new leadership role defined by being a “first.”
Her motto: “As long as I’m helping somebody, then I’m just as happy as I can be,” she said. “I want my role to be one of good leadership and doing the will of the people.”
Jenkins said she feels supported by black and white city residents. One of her goals as mayor is to unify the city, racially and politically. According to 2010 census reports, Waynesboro is 70 percent black and 26 percent white. Currently, four blacks and two whites sit on the City Council, Jenkins said.
“On the surface it looks one way, but deep down it really isn’t,” said Jenkins, noting that her experience in Burke County schools and her current job as a family services coordinator for the Richmond County school system helps her find common ground with different types of people. “I think I can be that type of person that unifies people, not necessarily black and white, but all people.”