Yolanda Anderson has always been involved in her community. She’s active in several volunteer roles within Richland One School District and the city of Columbia. She’s also a member of the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Women Caucus, which started her on an unlikely journey to becoming an elected official.
“They said we need people to run for office,” Anderson said. The caucus handed out a list of positions that would be up for election in November 2018.
Anderson shared the list at her church and with the many community organizations she was a part of. She had no intention of running herself. The main barrier was that most offices required a substantial filing fee to run. “I didn’t have the money,” Anderson said.
But as she studied the list of elected offices she noticed something. “There was one thing that was open that didn’t require a fee and that was the school board.” She wrestled with the decision to run. “I was getting cold feet, but (the urge to run) was just not leaving me alone.” Anderson filed to run for an at-large seat on the Richland One School Board in August, facing an incumbent and another challenger.
From that point, she was dedicated. “I’m in it, and I’m in it for the long haul,” she said.
Anderson had no experience, no resources, no car and no idea how to get started. She had a friend design a flyer that she emailed to everyone she knew. Then she set up a campaign Facebook page. “I had to figure out ways (to campaign) on the smallest budget. Facebook was my friend,” she said.
Anderson’s daughter helped her set up a PayPal account to accept donations. She received a $25 donation and ordered some inexpensive business cards online. The single mother of two had a friend drive her to
community meetings where she could introduce herself and hand out the cards and homemade flyers.
“I started to work the community,” Anderson said. “I’d get on the bus when I had to.”
A local business owner donated 100 yard signs. With another small monetary donation, she bought campaign T-shirts for herself and her children, Imani, 14, and Ethan, 12. “I talked to parents in the community and I started listening.” For the first time, she thought she had a chance when she heard voters say they wanted a change.
“It blew up even bigger than I knew, because I had built those relationships in the community,” Anderson said. “I was relatable.”
On election night, she was not very confident while watching the early returns. “For a long time, it was really close.” When all the votes were counted on Nov. 6, Anderson emerged victorious, with 20,488 votes, compared to 17,205 and 8,267 for her opponents.
“My kids started screaming, ‘Mommy, Mommy, you won!’ It was real, but it was surreal.”
Anderson was sworn in for a four-year term a week later. “I did all of this without a vehicle. I took away everyone’s excuses. If we put our mind to it, we can do whatever we want.”
The election winner is enjoying her work on the school board.
“Now I am a part of not just two children’s lives, but of 24,000 plus. I want to be here to help. It is very rewarding.”