First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton has been nominated by Sen. Kit Bond to attend the fourth annual national African-American Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., next month.
The event, coordinated by the not-for-profit Public Forum Institute, will feature a “policy-based dialogue between politicians and outstanding African-Americans from communities across the U.S.,” said Lucas Szabo, special assistant to the main sponsor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
The round-table discussion will focus on national issues such as the economy, education and health care.
Crayton was surprised when she found out about her nomination.
“It really was a shocker,” she said.
Crayton said she has met Bond several times.
“Every time I see him, we always kid each other,” she said. “I say, ‘OK, Senator, I need some money.’ And he says, ‘All right, Almeta.’”
Bond spokesman Charles Chamberlayne said the Republican Missouri senator “recognized Almeta as a significant and longstanding member of the community who has been fighting negative influence in the First Ward.”
When Bond heard about the summit, which usually requires nomination by an elected official, he decided to send a letter to Hutchison, who later notified Crayton of her nomination and the $75 registration fee by letter.
According to the summit Web site, the event will begin July 23, with a congressional welcome reception at Capitol Hill. Most of the activities, however, will occur July 24 at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Hotel, where participants will be welcomed by two of the co-sponsors, Hutchison and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The day’s proceedings will alternate between group discussion and keynote remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson.
Szabo provided an estimate of 375 to 400 people based on previous years’ attendance. Szabo also noted that Crayton will be the first person from Columbia to attend the event.
Crayton is excited by the summit.
“To be able to sit down at a conference and express what is key to my issues, and for them to want to hear my opinion, that really (says) a lot,” she said.
Crayton conceded she sometimes feels like the “lone wolf” on the City Council. She makes sure to constantly bring up low-income family issues such as house ownership because, she said, as a “low-income person,” she can see that there “really is a difference in the way people live.”
Crayton thinks the system doesn’t work for low-income families.
“(The decision makers) give you just enough and say that they’ve given it to you, but (they don’t give you) enough to change the situation,” she said.
This is Crayton’s third term with the council, marking eight years of service since 1999, and she plans to seek a fourth term in 2008. Crayton also serves on the Boone County Community Partnership and, during the school year, works as a cafeteria monitor at Gentry Middle School.
The summit is “not a government-sponsored event,” Chamberlayne said, so Bond can’t pay for Crayton’s trip because of Senate ethics rules. Crayton isn’t worried, though.
“I’ve got a few friends and family members I’m gonna hit up (to help cover expenses),” she said.