Lakewood City Council, At-large
Northeast Ohio, Local
Sarah Kepple was unanimously selected to fill a vacant seat for Lakewood City Council in 2020. Running for re-election, Kepple aims to continue her successful efforts to unite the Lakewood community. She wants to be an integral part of making funding and policy decisions for her city. Kepple’s campaign revolves around her belief in her ability and obligation to empower and care for others. She’s ready to identify and remove future barriers to women’s economic empowerment, equity, and independence. Kepple has established programs that give students in underfunded schools access to technology and STEM opportunities. She’s a fierce advocate for making government transparent and accessible and will continue to ensure health, safety, and prosperity to Lakewood residents if elected to City Council.Canvass for Kepple! Kepple for Lakewood
Meet the Candidate
Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
As a librarian and as a small business owner working with the public, I had always been socially engaged, but after the 2016 election, I resolved to do more. After attending the inaugural Women’s March, I returned and helped found Action Together Lakewood Area (ATLA), a predominately female grassroots group that works for progressive change in our region, state, and nation. As the lead organizer for ATLA, I built personal relationships with a broad coalition of folks and united previously divided community groups through a common purpose—working to ensure the health, safety, and prosperity of our families and community. We organized demonstrations and collective actions to protect the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, restore the Public Library Fund, defend the Affordable Care Act, and stave off any attempt to restrict our bodily autonomy. Doing this work, it became clear just how important it was to elect officials who shared our values. The ATLA ladies and I made phone calls, canvased, and lit dropped for many candidates, but one of my greatest successes was designing and directing the digital communication strategies for the underdog and successful campaign of lifelong women’s advocate and now State Senator Nickie Antonio.
When Lakewood City Councilwoman Meghan George was elected Mayor, Senator Antonio was one of the women of our community who encouraged me to apply to be appointed to the remainder of the term for the vacated seat, the only one on Council that had been occupied by a woman. As someone who had worked to unite our community around issues affecting women and families, and with the unique perspectives of a long-time public servant and successful entrepreneur, I felt called to serve, and I was unanimously selected by my now peers and sworn in on February 18, 2020.
Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top two issues your community faces today and how do you plan to address them?
The top two issues facing Lakewood are ensuring that Lakewood is accessible, equitable, and safe for our diverse community and planning our continued transition toward sustainable infrastructure that supports our local economy and environmental impact. Recently, a confluence of events and circumstances has led many community members to express fears about their safety, whether from rising gun violence and criminal activity, gender and racial violence, environmental destabilization, housing insecurity, health inequities, or mental health crises. Research indicates that many of these crimes and behaviors are interconnected and have been exacerbated across the nation by the stress and economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we cannot rely on the reduction of COVID to diminish them. We must be proactive and forward-thinking. While these safety issues may not be unique to Lakewood, our response to them can and should be unique and rooted in our community’s values.
As we look toward a post-pandemic future, I have proposed the formation of an intersectional safety committee to augment the work of our traditional safety forces and ensure the safety of all Lakewood residents, workers, and visitors. The committee is to be comprised of diverse members of the Lakewood community with a combination of lived experience, social services knowledge, mental health training, anti-racist expertise, and public safety background. Their charge is to engage with City leadership including the Police, Fire, Human Services, and Planning Departments to consider safety from a holistic lens together and to recommend and implement preventative and proactive measures that Lakewood can take, such as education and awareness campaigns, developing a community stewards program, providing expanded mental health and financial supports, all within a sustainable and accessible framework.
Lakewood’s recent allotment of American Rescue Plan Funds provides an opportunity for us to strengthen our sustainable and technological infrastructure to invigorate our local economy, improve the quality of our air and water, and support entrepreneurs and education. I will advocate for investments such as universal high-speed internet, upgrades to our wastewater system, safety- and accessibility-based environmental redesign of parks and public spaces, the transition of city vehicles to an electric fleet, and technology to support local businesses such as a digital marketplace and delivery system.
What stands out in our values as most important to you and your experience (or expected experience) in public office? Our values are:
∙ Economic empowerment
∙ Equity and independence
∙ Dominion over our bodies
∙ Access to education
∙ Safe communities in which to live and raise our families
As a longtime public servant working for and with diverse populations, I have seen first-hand that creating safe communities in which to live and raise our families requires the equitable provision of education, access to financial capital for economic empowerment, and always dominion over our own bodies. My experiences as a librarian leading early-literacy programs, helping struggling families find resources, and working with teens in foster care highlighted the inequities of the system and the burdens carried by the predominately female caregivers trying to lift up their kids and their communities.
Noticing that youth served by lower-funded schools did not have the same access and opportunity to computing and 21st Century skill-building as their peers in other districts, I developed technology education initiatives throughout the County library system. I later launched my business Gigalearn to bring more opportunities to more students in more places. As an entrepreneur in the often male-dominated STEM world, my very presence disrupts expectations, but as I pull up young women behind me, I also look to identify and remove future barriers to their economic empowerment, equity, and independence. To most effectively advocate for them, women like me need to be in the room where funding and policy decisions are made, which is why as a Councilwoman, I have worked to increase public awareness and participation in local government by actively publicizing meetings and working with the IT Department to augment our technological solutions, so that folks trying to feed and put their kids to bed can choose a more convenient time to submit eComments to be read into the public record rather than having to attend a 7:30 weekday Council meeting to be heard.
My unique combination of experience as a longtime public servant, entrepreneur, and community organizer enables me to understand that the values of economic empowerment, equity and independence, dominion over our bodies, access to education, and safe communities in which to live and raise our families are intrinsically connected. For instance, I voted to support a pay-to-stay ordinance that allows families to avoid eviction by making up back payments not only supports their independence and safety, it also helps the children avoid disruptions to their education and helps women have dominion over their own bodies by not being forced into unsafe living arrangements. In another instance, my express parking resolution enabled busy families to safely support the local economy with curbside pickup at neighborhood shops and restaurants during the pandemic. As we look toward sustainable infrastructure improvements, investments such as improvements to our water system and clean energy will make the water and air cleaner and safer for families, which has a direct correlation to the potential of children to learn and thrive. Investments in universal high-speed internet support education, entrepreneurship and economic independence, and continued professional development, and community conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion will strengthen our community’s ability to be a safe and accessible place for all.
What does a Matriots PAC endorsement mean to you and your campaign?
I have spent my career in public service and role as a community organizer working against the current in support of women, families, and those historically marginalized. The Matriots PAC endorsement came at just the right time to tell me, “We see you. We’ve got your back.” I will always fight for equity and empowerment and those not at the table. The Matriots PAC endorsement enables me to keep going and to go harder and faster.