As the son of civil rights figure James Meredith, the first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, John Meredith has a lot of stories.
Meredith, who grew up in a political household in Jackson, Miss., said politicians from both parties were always stopping by, often for an endorsement, sometimes a conversation.
“I had a conservative father and a liberal public schoolteacher mother,” he said. “I understood both sides of the equation and how people from both parties approached public policy.”
Meredith recalls meeting great political minds and civil rights activists, including James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and Sydney Poitier. Such experiences were a highlight of his childhood and helped to shape the man he is today.
Newly elected to the Huntsville City Council, Meredith said “a feeling of being disenfranchised” inspired him to run for the District 5 seat.
“I grew up in a household where public officials came to us and asked us for support,” he said. “As a lobbyist later in D.C., I was used to educating elected officials on issues and enjoying a certain rapport and success. I want to bring that same level of accountability and transparency to District 5.”
The Back Story
After earning an associate’s degree from Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Miss., Meredith left his home state for Ohio, where he graduated from the University of Cincinnati.
John’s first career was as a laboratory technologist. While managing a hospital-based clinical lab in Kansas, John participated in a Washington fly-in as a member of the clinical lab manager’s association to lobby against a bill that would have a profound negative impact on the delivery of services to patients.
He found the process fascinating and, after securing a master’s degree a year later, rededicated his professional efforts to government.
“It was my business’ interaction with government that forced me, for lack of a better word, to venture into public policy and go back to school,” he said.
Meredith moved to Washington in advance of the 1994 Republican Revolution. There, he quickly gained success navigating sensitive issues through the legislative process on behalf of small and family-owned business owners.
He provided exclusive leadership for a national multi-industry business coalition advocating immigration reform of service sector guest worker programs successful in extending H-2B reform. He also led the green industry’s advocacy effort to expand Daylight Savings Time on behalf of retail garden centers.
As a lobbyist, he conceived, organized, expanded and chaired a national multi-industry business coalition advocating immigration reform of service sector guest worker programs successful in enacting H-2B legislation during the 109th Congress.
Meredith, while in Washington, met his future wife, Tina Palacios, a “hometown girl” from Huntsville. They moved to Huntsville’s District 5 in 2012 and the rest is history.
Meredith, who previously ran for Huntsville City Council and lost, said one of his top priorities in his new role is to make sure “the fifth district knows their councilman.”
“If they don’t know who their councilman is, they can’t complain,” he said. “If you can’t complain, nothing’s going to change. I want to be that visible face.”
Some of Meredith’s other priorities include:
That starts by spending at least three days a week at City Hall, getting to know his constituents and responding to inquiries.
“If you reach out to me and I take too long to respond, you show up at City Hall and give me an earful,” he said. “I want people to truly take back their government and the council member of District 5. Public policy is public – it’s for you. Take advantage of it. Tell me what you want.”
Quality of Life
By investing in neighborhoods, the City can improve quality of life in District 5, Meredith says. He hopes to see more parks, community and recreation centers, a fire station in the north Capshaw/Limestone County area, and a new library branch so students without high-speed internet at home can be successful in the classroom.
He also hopes to extend City bus service to the western portions of his district.
“For me, it’s about unifying the fifth district and making sure the quality of life for folks who live out west matches up better with everyone else,” he said.
Meredith, who doesn’t support defunding the police, wants to help facilitate meaningful reform within the Huntsville Police Department. That starts with more community policing and better routing of 911 calls in and around his district.
Meredith also wants to ensure Huntsville Police has the resources it needs to help those with serious mental disorders access medical treatment rather than be placed in the criminal justice system.
“Instead of getting tasers, we can spend more money on getting mental health officers or something like that,” he said. “We don’t have to take money out of the police department to accomplish that.”
In his role, Meredith says he will work to expedite the Zierdt and Martin road projects, improve/pave D5 roads and push for more mixed-use developments.
“These are the kinds of things I want to base a legacy on,” he said. “I want to bring these things back to the folks in District 5.”
When he’s not working, Meredith enjoys spending time with his wife and grandkids, traveling, and playing with his rescue dogs, Bearcat and Bailey.
Want to learn more your District 5 Council Member? Read his bio, get his contact information or request a meeting on the City’s website.
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