Tiesa Leggett: Fighting for transparency and equitable policies
Tiesa Leggett, a Fort Worth-based former journalist, public affairs expert and corporate senior leader recently ran for Fort Worth City Council District 6, the first woman to do so in more than 15 years.
Leggett holds degrees in journalism and sustainability and has worked in the Fort Worth community for the last 15 years in a variety of positions, including at local TV stations, Chesapeake Energy, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, and the North Texas Commission.
“It’s a very eclectic background, so people can’t really tell what my ideology is, and I prefer it that way,” Leggett said. “I think when we get away from the human experience and we get so caught up in being party loyalists, we really miss out on the struggle of living day to day…I like to kind of shake things up a bit – with my background, I can work in any space.”
Leggett’s first experience with local government came when she was in kindergarten and begged her mom to let her meet the mayor of the San Antonio suburb that they lived in.
“It impacted me because even as a child, I understood that elected officials impacted the day-to-day of everyone,” Leggett said. “It’s really interesting that we’re having to beg people to exercise their right to vote. . .when it comes to local politics, you are immediately impacting the outcome.”
Leggett has always been invested in voter mobilization and empowerment and has proudly voted since she was 18 years old. As a reporter in West Texas during the 2008 presidential primaries, she got a firsthand perspective of both Republicans and Democrats in the Bible Belt.
“[Seeing] the election of the first African American president was the most impactful, beautiful thing to this day,” Leggett said.
Despite her career success, Leggett has faced constant barriers on her path to senior leadership roles: from microaggressions and misogyny to blatant sexism and racism, discrimination runs rampant in the United States, especially in the corporate world.
“I’m very excited to be the first woman of color to be in the senior level position at my last organization, but it shouldn’t have been a milestone,” Leggett said. “It shouldn’t be the last time that a person of color is put into a position in the Dallas Fort Worth area that can influence policy to make our region better.”
Leggett grew up in a military family, living in both Fort Worth and San Antonio. Because the military is very community-based, she gained an understanding of how to work and interact with different types of people. And her familiarity with the two cities gave her a localized view of governance that impacts the work she does today.
Today, San Antonio is embracing more progressive attitudes and platforms that Leggett didn’t see when she was growing up. But in Fort Worth, the city is far more loyal to industries and organizations – such as the police department and the police officer’s association (POA).
“It’s concerning to me when those organizations supersede the power of the city,” Leggett said. “There’s a lot of investment dollars into policing, and I feel like the guilt trip comes solely from the POA. I don’t remember it being this blatant as a child.”
The influence that the POA had in local elections and the fact that a woman of color hadn’t run in Leggett’s district for at least 16 years led her to run for Fort Worth City Council District Six.
In addition to the POA issue, Leggett was concerned by a lack of transparency and communication between the incumbent and the community. Her platform emphasized digital equity, compassionate community policing and economic development - District 6 is the only district that’s not connected directly to the central city or downtown with public transportation.
“We want to make sure that everything is equal as far as affordable housing, as far as opportunities - that everything is just equal in all of the districts,” Leggett said.
Leggett faced a lot of barriers with filing to run for office, from the February snow and ice storms to another candidate attempting to discourage her from running and trolling and harassment from other women. And the Fort Worth POA left Leggett off of their voter’s guide.
“That was the most empowering thing that could have happened – they straight up muted me,” Leggett said. “They’re like, ‘we’re not even touching her, we’re not gonna put her on this’. Because there is power in our voices.”
While Leggett wasn’t ultimately elected, her campaign forced the election to a runoff for the first time in 16 years and helped drive voter turnout to a new record of over 10,000 – the highest in the entire city. Her political story isn’t over – she’s staying open to new opportunities to serve her district and community.
When asked what advice she would give the next generation of women, Leggett said, “Really show yourself – we as women are strategic, we know our stuff. Show that off, and really be about the business of the people.”