As she walks down a bustling Fourth Street in downtown Santa Monica with almost every walk of life imaginable, she reminisces of the simpler days of her youth, but is also eager of the limitless possibilities for such a booming city that lie just beyond the horizon.
Ashley Powell can be called many things. She can be called an alumnus of Occidental College, the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC earning a B.A, MSW, and MPA respectively. She can be called the youngest board member of the Los Angeles based United in Harmony nonprofit organization. One thing Powell cannot be called, is a stranger to Santa Monica.
Powell was born and raised in Santa Monica and is product of Crossroads School. It was early on she began to understand the importance of assisting those less fortunate, seeing poverty and despair up close during her walks to and from school. “I remember volunteering in elementary school on Venice Beach feeding the homeless,” Powell says. “I started to question systemic inequality at a young age and by 22 I knew I wanted to run for office.”
As a self-proclaimed millennial, Powell feels youth is one of her strongest assets. “I noticed that no other young people are running in this race and I want to be a voice for change,” Powell says. “I feel people of my generation-the millennials-are smart and talented and need to step up, to bring our ideas and energy to the problems that plague our communities.”
Years of public service and an exceptional educational background in social work give her what she feels is the competitive edge on how to address the spike in homelessness in Santa Monica. She’s been on the beat for years serving the public from the front lines. “I respect the other candidates for their professions but I am the only human service practitioner who knows the experience of case management,” says Powell. “The incumbents are smart and newcomer Greg Morena is a leader but they do not know how to solve the homeless problem.”
She plans to combat the homelessness Santa Monica is facing with a humanistic, but also a structured approach. “I plan to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets by providing more easily accessible social services including more street outreach teams,” says Powell. “I want to figure out a way to have more access to showers, storage, and job search skills/coaching.” Getting to the root of these issues is what Powell’s campaign is all about. “I will make access to mental health services more approachable for the homeless,” Powell says. In her mind, a personal touch is what’s missing in the equation to combating homelessness.
Not every stroll down a bustling city street is a somber reminder of the work needed ahead, and homelessness isn’t the only issue the self-proclaimed millennial plans to address. She sees a Santa Monica achieving sustainability by preserving local businesses and managing livability. “Affordable housing and renters’ protection should make [Santa Monica] a more attractive place to live,” says Powell. “I [also] want to keep old time local businesses on Main Street and Montana that I see disappearing.”
A walk towards public service with dignity and sustainability with preservation of a city so rich in history is something every Santa Monica resident can keep pace with.
As part of our commitment to helping educate voters on local issues and elections that will be decided at the ballot box; Santa Monica Next will publish profiles of candidates for City Council. This is the first profile. For more on Ashley Powell, visit her official website.
Powell is running against fellow newcomers Geoffrey Neri, Greg Morena and Scott Bellomo, as well as incumbents Kevin McKeown, Pam O’Connor and Sue Himmelrich.