Women of Action: Kaytrina Simmons

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Alex Hopper, Staff Writer

The Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion, Women’s Center, and Community Service and Outreach have co-sponsored “Women of Action.” 

“Women of Action” is a web series that they say seeks to highlight the achievements of women in the Shoals Community in the areas of civic engagement, education, business, and leadership. 

From Sept. to Nov., “Women of Action” will hold free zoom classes featuring guest speakers who have made an impact in their community. 

The October class featured Kaytrina Simmons. 

Simmons, a Florence native, is the first African-American woman to serve on the Florence City Council. She also works with several non-profits, such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). 

Andrea Hunt, the director of the Mitchell West Center for Social Inclusion, explains why Simmons was chosen for this series. 

“She has a heart for all people,” said Hunt. “She is committed to making a difference in the community and in the lives of others.” 

Hunt described Simmons as having an extreme work ethic and being an avid “people-person.” 

“Believe it or not I am actually very shy,” said Simmons. “But I guess my personality now comes with the territory and my job.” 

Simmons explained that a life in politics wasn’t something she planned for her life. 

“It was nowhere on my radar,” said Simmons. “When I was growing up I wanted to be in the medical field or the legal field.” 

The common ground between her past dreams and her current goals is Simmons’ love of people. “It was like people were drawn to me,” Simmons said. “I’ve always loved being around people.”

Though Simmons didn’t start her career in volunteerism until later in life, she has always worked in the public sector. 

“I worked in retail and then became a make-up artist,” said Simmons. “I would meet all kinds of people in all walks of life.”

This experience sparked her interest in nonprofits.

“I feel like I’m to work to save everybody,” said Simmons. “I just have a need to save the world.”

Her first volunteer work was with SafeSpace, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. Simmons explained that she longed to do more than what was asked of her at SafeSpace. She wanted to actively participate in changing lives. 

“I wanted to take them home with me,” said Simmons. “But, I couldn’t. I was just an intake worker. But, my heart would bleed for some of the stories I heard.”

She then transitioned into civic engagement, though not without reservation.

“I was approached about running for city council,” said Simmons. “I told them I don’t do that.”

The push for Simmons to run was not about her passion for politics but, about her ability to connect to others. 

“They watched me for a while,” said Simmons. “They said they thought I could do it with my personality.” 

Simmons prayed and reached out to her family for advice. After gaining support, she decided to accept the challenge. After campaigning for the first time ever, Simmons was appointed to the city council in 2016. 

“I don’t deem myself as a politician,” said Simmons. “I like to deem myself as a servant.” 

Dr. Hunt spoke to Simmons’ commitment in serving her district. 

“I have seen the connection you have with your district,” said Hunt. “They feel like they have your ear and are very connected to you.”

Though Simmons is committed to changing her district for the better, she asks for patience in completing all of her goals.

“I tell people, give me time,” said Simmons. “Things didn’t get in this condition overnight. It didn’t get this way in four years. So there is no way I can fix it all in that time.”

Simmons also spoke to her gratitude she has toward her district.

“I thank all of those that have entrusted their faith in me,” said Simmons. “To continue to lead the district into higher highs.”

Simmons’ overall goal for the city of Florence is to move toward a more forward-thinking community. 

“I think we all have to become a more forward thinking city,” said Simmons. “We have to be patient with them [those who don’t accept change] and help them understand.”

Simmons urges others, if they feel called to do so, to volunteer within their community. 

Her parting words of advice for anyone looking to make a change is to approach it with a caring heart and a love for those around you.