by Contributing Writer, Donna Michele Ramos
Les Simmons grew up in South Sacramento where he attended Prairie Elementary School, Samuel Jackman Middle School and graduated from Valley High School. After going away to college, he returned home after graduating. Les and Katrina Simmons (also a native of Sacramento) have been married for 18 years. The couple has three children, Lesley, Jr. – 17, Ania – 14 and Cadence – 10. Simmons is a Senior Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center. As he runs for Councilmember for District 8, his long-range aspirations are to create a better environment for his community to thrive – a community where everyone is seen and a place where poverty and homelessness are ended. He has the passion to address creating better neighborhoods within District 8. His goal is for this district to be a safe space. On the City Council, Simmons will make sure South Sacramento benefits from the economic renaissance currently underway in Sacramento.
Les Simmons is a former board member for Sacramento ACT, a multi-racial and multi-faith organization advocating for the transformation of Sacramento based on shared values of justice and equity. He currently serves on the board for the Mack Road Partnership because he believes helping local businesses prosper is important to the health of his community. As District 8’s City Council representative, Simmons will work for policies that prioritize resources for youth and help all children thrive.
THE HUB: What are your plans as you run for office?
Simmons: To continue to provide support and resources for youth. It’s a grassroots organizing effort. Our office is supportive of lots of young voters in the district. South Sacramento is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city with African Americans, Latinos, Caucasians and Indonesians. We launched a bilingual webpage.
THE HUB: What challenges do you see ahead?
Simmons: Have to address key issues as a city: affordable housing, mixed use, the housing shortage. Be passionate about providing resources for homeless, mental health and alcohol-related problems. The city of Sacramento has resources for the next 16 – 18 months from Measure U. The mayor is really passionate about every district addressing homelessness in their district. Since we’re service providers already, I know a lot of homeless are in every district. Every district will find homeless in their district i.e. parking their car in a safe environment to sleep or providing in-home stay or shelter. There is a huge need for affordable housing.
THE HUB: You have touched on it but how do you plan to address the homeless crisis in Sacramento?
Simmons: Creating enough support to house a certain number of homeless in each district. Continue to address neighborhood safety. The last two decades for me has been to address street violence. I strongly support part of citywide Reduction for African American Child Deaths in Sacramento County. We revitalized Cal Skate skating rink with support from sponsors Sierra Health Foundation, Sacramento Kings and network of Sacramento Rise up. Also needed are crisis intervention, conflict resolution, providing precious resources to people; help people get not just jobs but something they can be happy for at the end of the day. Working to be able to send their kids to college, to retire, to give them something to live for.
We re-opened the skating rink for people to have a place to come to. Part of the challenge comes from getting people together to be a community. We offered STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education for last 2 years; targeting our district to give kids a learning environment and to help kids walk out going to college thinking they can be the next engineer. We host over 1,000 kids a month, for events at the old Cal Skate off of Hwy 99. It’s fully operational as a skating rink, basketball court and mentor space. Our organization, South Sacramento Christian Center bought the building through church and partners four years ago. My dream and the organization supported it and made it happen. There used to be nothing for kids to go to, now there’s the Valley Hi Community Center, Sam Pannell Community Center and our Simmons Center with a lounge, computer lab, basketball and skating for families to enjoy. All part of the re-imagine Mack Road Partnership.
Communities like this, these jewels need to be cultivated. I’ve been here for some time and can target bringing South Sacramento back, celebration of culture, youth and revitalization of our community. We need community partners. The goal is to improve quality of life for community: solo moms, the homeless, business owners running their own small businesses, support for mentorship in school and help for teachers. Affordable housing for state workers who live in the community.
THE HUB: How can we increase African Americans in city and county employment?
Simmons: Prioritize gender and ethnic studies, use information to be very intentional in providing support and pipelines for hiring. Getting people into these jobs is critical by having a pipeline for youth internships from high school to college.
THE HUB: Knowing that when we’re not involved we lose; how can we mobilize more African Americans to take elections and our right to vote seriously?
Simmons: Keep reminding them if we’re not at the table where decisions are made, we’re on the menu. We will not be part of decision-making process. We have to register and vote. We must cultivate the next generation of political leaders built out of the environment we come from. For 10 years, I’ve been part of Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) on the board and as a leader. ACT plays a huge advocacy role for the underserved community, building police and community relationships. This gives you traction when you put that person in office because they can take those issues to help drive policy to serve marginalized communities. Simmons will build on his previous advocacy work to prevent skyrocketing rents, provide supportive services, and fast-track affordable housing for youth, families and seniors.
Connect with Pastor Les Simmons on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/lessimmons
Contributing Writer, Donna Michele Ramos
Donna Ramos writes several (contemporary and historical) multi-cultural, romance novels simultaneously. Her journalism career as a Senior Staff Writer/Reporter for THE HUB Magazine has yielded interviews with Maxwell, Venus and Serena Williams and HRH Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York, to name a few. As a self-published author, Ramos received acclaim from Essence Magazine and BlackbookPlus.com by being on their best seller lists for her contemporary romance debut book “HIGH RISE”. Currently she is writing, “M&M: MADNESS AND MAYHEM”, the final book in her “HIGH RISE” Trilogy, and “CHOCOLATE IN THE CITY”. Donna partnered with another author, Brooklen Borne to write a 4-book sci-fi thriller series, “Absorption.” Last year she was named “Author of the Year” by Write-On! Awards for Literary Excellence. She states her next project is to “teach myself how to screen write so I can turn my novels into screenplays and submit them to studios and agents searching for fresh new scripts.” Connect with Donna at: facebook.com/donnamramos1