“Above all, you must remain humble; know when you’ve been blessed to have an opportunity and always share your gift.”
Lashunda Scales has been serving her community in Birmingham for over 20 years. An entrepreneur, Birmingham City Councilor, Chair of the Governmental Affairs/Public Information Committee and a member of the Economic Development and Transportation Committees, it’s safe to say Scales is a very influential woman.
She was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala. where graduated from the Birmingham City School System. She went on to attend Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and married her husband Michael in 1991, at 20 years old.
Scales took a bit of an “untraditional” path, never graduating from Stillman College; but becoming a homemaker, holding several jobs for family members until 2000 when she started her own Public Relations firm.
“My PR skills are completely self taught,” said Scales. “I had no formal education in it. One day while working for my fathers national promoting business I called news stations and newspapers to get the word out about a new promotion and realized I really enjoyed what I was doing. I had found my niche.”
Scales has spent the past 18 years building her business while serving her community. In 2003 she returned to college, and graduated from Jefferson State Community College in 2005.
She was first elected to the Birmingham City Council, District 1 seat in 2009, a position that she has held since then. As a city councilor she coordinated the Birmingham City Council’s 50th Anniversary Swearing-In Ceremony and Music Festival, the Council’s Neighborhood Small Business Economic Development Summit, and host’s regular informative town hall meetings.
Scales completed Harvard’s Leading Economic Growth program from the Harvard University Kennedy School in 2015, and completed the 21st Century Leadership program through the same school in 2016. She also graduated from Leadership Birmingham’s program in 2016.
She and her husband Michael live in Birmingham, and have two adult children.
Scales is an ambitious woman with a story that many young women can relate to and was kind enough to answer some of Alabama Today’s questions about her life, work and influences:
How have other women influenced your success?
There are three women who have influenced my personal life – my mother, who was a single parented and worked very hard as a nurse to raise four children on her own; my grandmother (my mother’s mother) who was an advid homemaker; and my father’s mother, who was a highly recognized entrepreneur until her death in 2012.
Politically, Shirley Chisholm, Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Chisholm for her courageous stance against powerful political machines and special interest groups seeking to overpower the will of the people’ through the use of their influence.
Senator Warren for her strong stance on issues affecting ‘blue collar’ workers and our country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Obama for her ability to assume the role of first lady while savvy enough to use this role to impact the lives of citizens who are often overlooked and underserved.
I am inspired by these women because they used their political positions to effectively change the lives of others.
What shaped your desire to serve Birmingham through the city council?
For me, it was divine inspiration. 14 years ago, I partnered with 10 Birmingham City Schools on Birmingham’s east side with the intent to make a transformative difference in the community where I live. I believe students, if given proper exposure and opportunities can change the world. To to help senior citizens by providing a better quality of life is very rewarding.
That is by using my position to change laws, policies and by being apart of the legislative process that directly impacts citizens lifestyle is what brought me to public service.
What has been your favorite area of service, and what is your favorite thing about that position?
I’ve always enjoyed working with youth and senior citizens. I love being able to impart the life lessons and education that I have received, to students so they can not only achieve great things, but be better than myself at a much younger age.
I also enjoy working with senior citizens, because I cherish the mutual trust that we have in one another. My constituents trust me to make decisions on their behalf and being a voice for the underserved, or a voice for the voiceless; is what I enjoy the most.
How has being a small-business owner impacted your view of community service?
Being a business owner has helped me to take the personalities out of politics. We are called to serve, yes, but as a business owner I look at budgets and public infrastructure from a business perspective. I look at it from the lens of ‘how would I spend money as a business owner to best meet the needs of citizens.’ Needs always come first and ‘wants’ come at a later time. It’s important to understand that in order to make a successful city, you must first make the people, and the neighborhoods they live in successful.
What advice would you give to young women who want to start their own business or politicians?
If you want to start your own business, you have to be able to count the cost of your endeavor. There has to be a need for your product or service and you have to have realistic goals both short term and long term to be successful. Even in business you should think of how you’re providing a service that no one else has.
You have to be committed to your craft and understand that you will have ups and downs, but commitment equals success.
You have to commit not only the initial product, but to reinventing that product to guarantee your long-term success. My company is ever evolving, because I stay on The cutting edge of my company’s presentation to potential clients and by creating innovative ways to keep my company relevant.
If you want to serve in a public office, again count the cost of your endeavor. Your public service should be greater than yourself, and should be used to enhance the quality of life of your constituents. You absolutely have to be passionate about what you’re doing; be selfless; willing to sacrifice your time, your ability and sometimes family time, if necessary.
You have to be able to listen more than you speak, and to be courageous. You have to be willing to be the leader that your people voted for, rather than following your colleagues, even if they disagree with you. Know the authorization of the law. What does the law outline for your position? You need to know your job, according to the Alabama state law, and the authority that comes with holding that position.
A lot people can’t serve their people well because they don’t actually know their job and the authority the state has given to them.
Above all, you must remain humble; know when you’ve been blessed to have an opportunity and always share your gift; you don’t own your gift you are only a steward of it, so share it with your community.
For her 14 years of service to the Birmingham city schools, nine years of service to the city of Birmingham — Lashunda Scales is undoubtedly an Alabama woman of influence.