Written by Erica Merasse
When someone can make a difference in their community, we should applaud them. Meet Haitian American Vanessa Pierre who is running for North Miami City Council District 1 and ready to make an impactful change. I had the opportunity to interview her and get to know a little more about her and her want for change in North Miami.
Erica Merasse: Tell Me A Little About Your Background/Upbringing
Born and raised in North Miami and my parents came to here in the 1980s. I went to the schools in North Miami (W.J. Bryan Elementary, North Miami Middle School, and North Miami Senior High School). I went away to college in 2007 and studied my bachelor’s at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, FL. I always knew that I wanted to come back home and run for office.
When I got back home from college, I wanted to jump right in. I said, “Daddy, I want to run for mayor”, but he figured since I just got back, I had to learn the terrain again before jumping right in. I then went back to school for my master’s degree. I studied at Nova Southeastern University and then Morgan State University for my Doctoral in Education. I know and feel that I’m ready. My passion is education and since 2016, I then established Artcademics Academy which is a Stem and Arts Ed Youth Enrichment Program educating students from K to 8th Grade. We’ve hosted after-school programs and weekend programs also. I am super passionate about Education and passionate about running for City Council.
Erica Merasse: Give Me Some More Information On The Artcademics Program
We service them and teach them the fundamentals to Stem Education and Media. And our Summer Camp program we infuse that with academics. Artcademics is a year-round school service program to help and benefit the kids. The kids really enjoy it and we enjoy exposing them to things they are not really used to. We teach them things like how to build and fly drones, how to record videos on them, and then later how to edit them and giving them tips on how to advertise them. I believe it’s truly important for the kids to have fun with their education.
Erica Merasse: What Year Did You First Get Into Politics? Was It Hard To Get Into? What were the Ups and Downs?
I’ve always been interested in politics. I’m one to read International Politics because I’m interested in politics all over the world. You could probably ask me something about International Politics and I more than likely will know. So, it was not that hard for me to want to get involved. I regularly attend City Council Meetings and Homeowner Association Meetings. I would stick out like a sore thumb because I would be the only black and young woman there. I had no issue sticking out like a sore thumb and voicing my opinions in these meetings. What really compelled me is that I know I’m a really smart woman and figured why not, my voice should be heard.
Erica Merasse: What Is The Role Of A City Commissioner/Council?
The City Council creates Legislation for the City. So, there are ordinances and making legislation based on the needs of the city. Local legislation is important because it hits you first, for example, a tax increase would directly affect you.
Erica Merasse: How Do Your Parents Feel?
My Father is really proud of me. You know Haitian parents have a funny way of showing they are proud. I showed my dad my flyer and my announcement video via WhatsApp (mind you I didn’t tell him to share it with anyone). He didn’t tell me that he liked it or anything, and about 20 minutes later I told him not to share it with anyone and he said, “Oh, I already shared it with all of my contacts already”, I was like “Wow”! But I know that he’s super proud and my family is happy for me.
Erica Merasse: Who Are The People You Are Up Against? And How Does It Feel?
I currently have one opponent and this person has been in this position since 1999 (I was 9 years old in the 4th grade). I do feel confident! I am confident because North Miami is not the same North Miami in 1999 and because I am homegrown, life long resident of North Miami. I believe that it’s time that homegrown residents and products of North Miami step up to the plate and represent the diversity in Miami so great!
One of the things I stated in my announcement video was, elected positions should be earned and not gifted. I believe that in most jobs after a year you should have an evaluation; and with the person currently seated, they haven’t had anyone run against them so they just keep the position, and I don’t think that’s how it should work. I believe that it’s time to know that in North Miami, we have options! The needs of the community have hanged, the demographics have changed, and we need progressive and innovative thinkers. I knew I wanted to run and I knew I wanted to make a change!
Erica Merasse: What Are Your Plans As City Commissioner? What Are The Changes You’d Like To See?
The first pillar on my Vision 2020, is I want to expand the stem and civic engagement youth enrichment programs. I believe we need youth enrichment programs that mimic the growth of the world. With so many things in education being on the rise, we need to prepare the youth for that so that later, they don’t feel like they get to college and try to figure it out. For example, when I went to college changed my major 6 times which is why I decided to do this plan! So, if we start exposing our youth to stem and youth enrichment programs now, they will be ready 2000% perfect by the time they are ready for the job market. The industries of today are only going to increase, so it’s important. I also want to conserve the Arch Creek East Nature Preserve because it is facing attack. There are some developers that want to tear it down and build roads to make easier access to their properties, so that is why I am advocating for it.
I am big on environmental issues, recycling, and paying attention to our community and nature. I also want the infrastructure to be upgraded due to rising sea levels. Many of us young ones hear about sea levels and global warming, but don’t understand the importance behind it. Some of the infrastructures we have were built-in the 1950’s or earlier, and it’s not durable for the sea levels that are changing. Then, I want to open the discussion for City Operated Waste Management Services. The services use to be operated in-house but now it’s privatized and a lot of residents have vocalized they’re discontent with the service, so I want to open up discuss back to in-house operated services.
Another thing on my Vision 2020 platform that I want to achieve is, to promote the initiative that promotes the live, work, play atmosphere for millennial’s. I realized a lot of people who a lot of people who I went to school with or that went away for college don’t want to come back to Miami. Why? Because North Miami is not attractive to them and it isn’t drawing people in. Places like Pembroke Pines are bringing them in because it’s more upgraded apartments, club-houses, pools, and much more because we attracted to these things.
They have created this atmosphere that works great for them, and I believe we can do the same for North Miami. Millennial are the largest demographic in the workplace right now but we need a place to live that is also going to accommodate us. I also want to give incentives for sensible business development. Not all business is good business. We have dollar stores every 5 blocks from each other and that is putting a cap on how valuable your neighborhood or city can be. Just because a business wants to be built-in your city doesn’t mean you have to approve their application.
I think it is all about marketing and how you want your city to be marketed. I am not saying to remove all dollar stores or things of that nature, but we need to be conscious of what we are putting out there as a city and what we are attracting. We need to bring in businesses that mimic our needs. I want to expand Senior and Veteran Programs because I feel a lot of the time they are forgotten about. A lot of the art active and looking for things to do, so I want to provide them with more programs.
The last thing on my Vision 2022 is to have the groundbreaking of Cagni Park North. So North Miami Senior High, they tore it down and they swapped lands with North Miami Middle. So, they built new schools and the park was supposed to be built but the school was put in. So, these are the amazing things I am advocating for!
Erica Merasse: What Piece of Advice Would You Give To Someone Who Is Looking To Get More Involved In Their Community?
I don’t think that anyone must meet with someone particular. If you want to be engaged, you’ll do it yourself. I was the only person going to these meetings and you’re going to stick out. If you’re really involved go to your city website, get those meeting dates, and ask directed officials to put you on these boards to get more involved. I am actually a sitting Commissioner for the Parks & Rec Division in North Miami and I am also a board member on the Quality Education Board. Because I attended those meetings, I got appointed and because I was vocal. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you the go, or meet with someone to connect you, go there and get your seat and own the table!
Erica Merasse: What Are Some of Your Future Goals For Miami?
I would love to see an increase in millennial leadership in North Miami. I would also like to see the sensible development of residential properties of North Miami. I would also like to see North Miami a little more modernized and look like the 20th century a bit.
Erica Merasse: When Does Voting Begin?
Voting begins with Absentee Ballots. If you or your parents are residents of North Miami, they can vote as early as when Absentee Ballots go out. The date of Election is May 14th and early voting begins April 28 to May 11th. Early voting can be done at North Miami Public Library, but for election day voting, you would go to your original precinct.
Erica Merasse: Any Last Words?
A quote that I always lead by is from Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune (Founder of Bethune-Cookman University), “Enter to learn and depart to serve”. Use this in everything in your life because you always enter a situation to learn and when you leave, you will serve in your purpose to the best of your ability!