“A merry heart does well, like medicine.”
It’s a proverb that Sharon Weston Broome lives by each day. As the Mayor-President of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Broome is challenged daily by a number of issues ranging from racial tensions to youth development. But in those stolen moments, when she’s home with her family, speaking casually with constituents, or just taking time to decompress, the former state senator finds that laughter is the fuel that keeps her moving forward.
In the year ahead she’ll need it as she addresses the sometimes difficult but rewarding task of equity and inclusion, ensuring that her office in city government is opening up opportunities for everyone.
“I believe that equity and inclusion have to be the pillars of a progressive and prosperous community,” Broome told ESSENCE during a recent visit to Washington, D.C.
To that extent, the city is continuing to host equity and business seminars aimed at empowering local entrepreneurs so that they can in turn, “be a part of the fabric, not only of city-parish government but throughout our community, where opportunities exist,” says Broome.
Under Broome’s leadership, the capital city of Louisiana will also tackle early childhood development through a signature Cradle to K program. The goal is to strengthen the culture of parenting in Baton Rouge. Ultimately, Cradle to K is about supporting parents to build positive habits and reduce stress.
“That’s very important because we all know that we have to intervene and get involved in the life of a child right when they’re born so that we can put them on the trajectory toward success,” Broome says of the initiative she started after taking office. “We’re in our third year. We’ve had as many as 1,200 participants, families and children and we look forward to elevating that involvement so that we can empower our parents as they develop the next generation.”
Equipping constituents with the resources they need to make their daily lives and goals a reality is at the top of Broome’s priority list. She shared with ESSENCE that it is, in fact, one of the “greatest joys” in leading the city. She also uses the success of her electors as a barometer to affirm whether or not the city is moving in the right direction.
“The citizens, no matter what their zip code is, no matter where they’re located — when I am with them and they share with me their goals and their vision for Baton Rouge, then I’m certainly encouraged,” Broome expresses. “Especially when I meet young women who aspire to be leaders one day and they look at me as a role model.”
Broome understands that strong leadership is what the people of Baton Rouge need, and also what she strives to deliver day in and day out. Despite feelings of animosity from the highest levels of government, Broome insists that she is committed to creating a community based on respect and dignity of all people.
“We need a country where civility is not the exception, but the norm,” Broome asserts. She believes that decorum at all levels would help those in local government advance their objectives and further improve the lives of those they serve. Broome says there is a “human cry” for it.
“There is certainly a belief that there is a lot of rancor that, unfortunately, is dividing us as a nation and as communities, Broome contends. “We need our leader to help close that rancor.”
In contrast, Broome’s participation in the ESSENCE x Policy Link All-In Cities Initiative provides the native Chicagoan a sisterhood free of any animus. Instead, she plans to take advantage of the relationship formed between herself and other African-American mayors and use it to develop stronger leadership skills as she moves forward with developing policies for her city and community.
“I believe that it’s very important that we, as mayors, have an opportunity to collaborate and communicate and relationship building is a vital part of that,” Broome says. “It’s so imperative that we be able to talk about the similarities of our challenges. But we also need it to encourage us both individually and collectively.”