Brittany Norris’ passion is her garden. It is where she recharges and clears her mind; fingernails covered in dirt do wonders for her psyche, considering the number of different hats she professionally dons throughout the day. The daughter of a Coast Guard pilot father and a chemist mother, Norris came to Northeast Florida in 2005 to attend the University of North Florida, where she studied graphic design.

After graduation, she began working for Adjective & Co, a branding and marketing agency in Jacksonville Beach. In 2011, she helped create the Dig Local Network in Jacksonville Beach, bringing food and nutrition education to those most in need.  And then in 2016, conversations with friends—most of which surrounded the national election results of that—led her to do what to her was once inconceivable. She ran for a City of Atlantic Beach Commissioner Chair and won heartily, becoming the first person of color to sit on the Atlantic Beach City Commission.

“I ran because I was not seeing myself represented by the candidates running for office. I do not minimize the fact that I am an African-American woman elected to a commission seat in Atlantic Beach, but I believe that the best way to give those factors the proper attention is to fold them into the larger narrative of what we hope to accomplish as a city,” Norris says.

What she hopes to accomplish is better local, civic engagement that can encourage a coalition of peacemaking and communication. “No matter which hat I’m wearing at any given time of the day, I sincerely believe that it’s all about communication within the community,” Norris says. For her, even gardening provides a conduit to communicate with neighbors and friends about what is seasonally optimum and available.

As a graphic designer, Norris had stacked up some impressive accolades in her field, some of which include a 2015 Judges Award, Jacksonville American Advertising Federationn (AAF), 2015 Gold ADDY, a 2005 Gold ADDY Award, Pensacola Bay AAF and a 2005 Judges Award, Pensacola Bay AAF. At Dig Local, she has served as founder, president and secretary. As a City Commissioner, she has served alongside the small beach municipality’s first all-female governing chamber.

Never one to rest or remain static, Norris is unsure about future elections and elected positions. Her first and foremost goal is to get people up to speed on the power and impact of municipal governance. “Local government is the one true place where folks can see direct results from their efforts and communications,” Norris says. “Yes, we deal with ordinances and legislation, but first and foremost, we are dealing with people and the everyday issues that affect how people live and enjoy their lives.”

Should future political office lie in her path, Norris hopes to continue her role as communicator and facilitator. It’s a path that she never envisioned for herself, but she is happy to walk it for her community. Should she choose to serve her time and allow others to take the reigns of local politics, Norris will be just fine with that, as well. “There is always plenty of gardening to do, and after all, that’s all about giving back too.”