Lawrence City Commission candidate profile: Jennifer Ananda
Part of Lawrence City Commission candidate Jennifer Ananda’s view of Lawrence comes from the vantage point of a Kansas town with fewer than 3,000 residents.
“I come from a community in southeast Kansas that is shrinking,” Ananda said. “And that’s really sad to me, because I wanted my town to be a place that I could go and raise a family and have a job.”
Originally from Girard, Ananda moved to Lawrence 17 years ago to attend the University of Kansas. She said that now, Lawrence is that community for her, and she wants the city to be a place that her children feel they can come back to.
Ananda said what’s important to her is that Lawrence move forward while holding on to the heart of the community.
“I don’t think that Lawrence runs the risk of shrinking and dying, but I do think that we run the risk of becoming just another suburb,” Ananda said.
While at KU, Ananda earned undergraduate degrees in film and English and later graduated with a law degree and a master’s in social work. Ananda, 36, is currently the deputy Title IX coordinator and policy specialist for KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which handles complaints of discrimination and harassment at KU and coordinates related training for staff and students.
Ananda said her background in law and social work enables her to understand how policy works from the legal standpoint and how it can impact people’s’ lives in intended and unintended ways. If elected to the commission, Ananda said she thinks those experiences will help her be an effective commissioner.
“The City Commission works a lot with policy and priority-setting,” Ananda said. “Those pieces are essential. Understanding how to have conversations among multiple systems is really important.”
Previously, Ananda was part of the law firm Highberger & Ananda LLC — with state Rep. Dennis “Boog” Highberger — where she worked primarily on immigration, civil and criminal cases. She also worked at the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence where she did community organizing and later worked as the coalition’s attorney.
Ananda, who has two sons, is also board president of the Waldorf Association of Lawrence and a member of the Community Mercantile board. As part of the Merc board, Ananda said she participated in a process to create a long-term plan for the organization, an experience she thinks will help her when planning for Lawrence.
Ananda said the main focus of her campaign is sustainability. She said that includes the environmental, human and future sustainability of Lawrence.
She said she believes Lawrence can be more in the forefront when it comes to environmental sustainability. That includes more bicycle and pedestrian improvements, solar energy, electric vehicle charging stations, as well as incentives for builders to use environmentally sustainable methods and products.
Ananda said human sustainability means ensuring the availability of mental and physical health care, addiction treatment and affordable housing.
“That includes making sure that even though federally these things are not being supported, we support them locally,” Ananda said. “… (It’s) making sure that we’re doing what we can to take care of our most vulnerable residents.”
Ananda said environmental and human sustainability are what will make the future sustainable. She said incorporating those aspects into the city’s comprehensive and strategic plans will make sure those plans continue to be relevant.
“I think that the City Commission has begun having difficult conversations, and that’s where it all starts,” Ananda said. “We just have to take it to the next level.”
Another key issue for Ananda is growth and development. She said a main component of growth should be bringing jobs to Lawrence that pay a living wage. She also said she would like to take a “deeper look” at the city’s economic incentives policy to ensure it has specific enough guidelines to encourage such projects.
Above all, Ananda said the goal is for Lawrence’s evolution to have the community’s support.
“Everything should evolve because everything can be better, but we don’t have one definition of ‘better,'” Ananda said. “We have to listen to understand what ‘better’ means to our community.”
The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Mike Amyx and Matthew Herbert are expiring this year. Eight candidates have filed for the election: Herbert, Larsen, Ananda, Bassem Chahine, Dustin Stumblingbear, Ken Easthouse, Mike Anderson and Christian Lyche.
The primary election on Aug. 1 will narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be Nov. 7.
Address: 1951 Miller Drive
Occupation: deputy Title IX coordinator and policy specialist for KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access
Education: bachelor’s degrees in film and English, law degree, master’s in social work
Family: husband, Chris Snipes, and two sons