My name is Nikylan (Na-Kai-lyn) Knapper and I am running to be the next mayor of Maplewood. While some community members know who I am through my volunteer work for the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, many may not. Please allow me to tell you who I am and why I want to serve our community as mayor of Maplewood.
My family relocated to Maplewood from Nashville, Tennessee four years ago for my new job as a federal administrative law judge. I was pregnant with twins at the time, and our first son was four years old. My husband Sam and I knew nothing of Maplewood then, but we fell in love with a house on Marietta that we knew would become home for our growing family. Once my twins reached one year, I threw myself into volunteering for the students and teachers of our school district. I joined the MRH Parent Teacher Organization and—with the help of my fellow parents and the United Way of Greater St. Louis—I brought Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to our pre-school students at MRH. Students who join this program receive a free book every month until they are age 5, which supports emerging literacy skills and enhances kindergarten readiness. I have also volunteered as a coach for MRH Youth Sports, as a den leader for our local Cub Scout Pack, and I am currently serving as a Director for the MRH Board of Education.
Our Board of Education works together as a team. Together, we have drafted and unanimously passed an educational equity policy and policy to protect our transgender and non-binary students. Together, we have drafted a charter for an Educational Equity Committee that will advise the Board. Together, we have worked to keep MRH students, staff, and families safe during an ongoing global pandemic. But the question remains: why do I want to be mayor of Maplewood? My answer is simple. I want to be mayor because I want everyone to know that they belong here.
I have been a public servant throughout my legal career, trained to think analytically and find multiple solutions to problems. I have protected clients’ Constitutional rights as an Assistant Public Defender. Working as a Legal Aid attorney, I ensured consumer protections and legal protection from domestic violence for all regardless of socioeconomic status. In my work as a bankruptcy attorney, I secured relief for people suffering from financial stress while also ensuring they learned how to balance their budgets. I have been a litigator and argued cases before judges and juries. In my current role as a federal administrative law judge for rural America, I ensure all parties before me receive face-to-face fairness.
As an African-American woman, I have in my life experienced gender and racial discrimination, poverty, food insecurity, and a sense of not belonging. But I have also been provided with opportunity, in the form of law school scholarships, mentoring that propelled my career forward, and community support. Maplewood has never had an African-American mayor in its 118 year history. Without diverse voices with different experiences, a community can stagnate. I believe Maplewood deserves progress, not stagnation. My life and career experience as an African-American woman, licensed attorney, and federal administrative judge has prepared me to work with Maplewood city council members as a team to continue our progress forward toward equity, anti-racism, affordable housing and sustainability.
During this pandemic, societal inequities have been laid bare for all to see. Our local businesses are hurting because of restrictions necessary for public health and because many of our residents are also hurting financially and have less money to spend in our shops and restaurants. Decreases in revenue today make necessary a tighter budget tomorrow. I will be an advocate for local businesses by partnering with state and regional leaders to ensure we are using every available tool to keep our local business community vibrant.
I also want to use my experience to eradicate inequities within our community and steward our city’s budget through the difficulties to come. To that end, as your mayor I would work alongside council members to create a Charter Committee to review Maplewood City ordinances and Charter articles —determining whether they are equitable, if they are outdated and in need of amendment, or if they need to be removed altogether and shepherd the changes through appropriate approval processes and votes (City council and residents depending upon the nature of the change). I also would work with council members to ensure our city budget is viewed as a moral document, and that community members have every opportunity to influence how their tax dollars are spent. We need to get more creative than ever before to support our local businesses and our residents. I believe these acts will move us toward equity and a sense of belonging for all.
Together, we are Maplewood. Everyone--renters, homeowners, business owners and their employees--belongs here because together, we are community. I have the right experience to lead us during this time because I will ensure a sense of belonging is felt by all within our community. I look forward to learning about you and your needs during my campaign for mayor.
Yours in service,
Nikylan has the right experience for right now.
Hear more from her in this video as she announces her campaign for Mayor of Maplewood, Missouri.