In March of 2023, Kesha Hodge Washington defeated Carlos Garcia in a runoff election to become the first African-American woman elected to the District 8 City Council seat that represents much of South Phoenix. Homelessness, affordable and attainable housing, and economic development are among Councilwoman Hodge Washington’s top priorities in her district.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Virgin Islands, Hodge Washington graduated from Arizona State University College of Law with her law degree. She also provides free legal services to those in need, raises scholarships for high school and college students, and mentors young women.
In an interview, Hodge Washington said that as the first Black woman elected to her post in the fifth largest city, she has a constant awareness of the scrutiny that comes with breaking down any type of barrier. “I enjoy it. But I also recognize the need to balance the responsibility of public office with the need to address what I believe are systematic biases and stereotypes,” she said.
The newly elected council member just wrapped up a key assignment serving as Chair of the General Obligation Bond outreach campaign. She got the plum assignment less than a month after her election and said the hard work paid off. “I’m happy to say that that passed on Tuesday and I helped lead the messaging campaign to the public on that. So I like to think that I hit the ground running,” said Hodge.
When asked about the challenges she faced so far in her new position, Councilwoman Hodge Washington said that one of the biggest ones is how the homeless situation is dealt with. “We deal with those in a way that balances the needs of our community while also being compassionate and humane in our response, especially when you’re dealing with some cases, like those that are dealing with substance abuse or mental health concerns,” she said.
District 8 resident, Marcie Lynn said Hodge Washignton’s first task was to reconcile district residents after the controversial tenure of former councilmember, Carlos Garcia. “Kesha walked into a nightmare from the destruction that Carlos Garcia caused in the district.” Lynn added that Districts 7 and 8 are too large and could benefit from more council members, but the “bad apples” need to be removed. Carlos Garcia did not respond to requests for an interview.
Hodge Washington said as part of her efforts to build trust in District 8 she is making a special effort to reach out to all groups in her multicultural district, by partnering with organizations like the Prensa Hispana Newspaper and the Anti-Defamation League. “Although I’m African-American, I have tried to be a good partner to the Latino community as well as the Asian community as well as all the minority communities that you could think of. I try to support the LGBT community as well, and any underrepresented community,” said Hodge.
Hodge Washington said while she’s content with her performance so far, she’s always trying to improve opportunities for her constituents. “It’s been a very exciting six months and it has been filled with a lot of opportunities. it’s been really good, it’s been busy, I’m trying to make the best of every opportunity,” she said.