She is small in stature but large in life. Anita James Price’s reach spans Virginia and beyond.
“Anita knows a lot of people and she makes a big difference in our community,” says Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea. Perhaps, the name, Anita Price, rings a bell and if it does not, her city and statewide initiatives may. Price served as a member of the Roanoke City Council for more than a decade. “I was on City Council from July 1, 2008, to December 2020,” says the former councilwoman. For those years, Price committed to making lives better for everyone in the community, but admits she had a special penchant for Roanoke’s youth population. In fact, it is the platform on which she ran. As an educator, children are her top priority. Price explains, “My biggest highlight was that we (Roanoke City Councilmembers) got our youth services initiative back on the city’s radar because at one time there was a whole department that was dedicated to youth services. Through budget cuts over the years, that department and the services just went by the wayside. Our youth services board was an advisory component to that department and that went by the wayside also.” The youth initiative was Price’s main platform because the board advocates for the needs of all youth and their families with the objectives of positive youth development through planning, collaboration, coordination and implementation of services. It focuses on four areas:
1. A financially fit family in which to thrive.
2. A healthy lifestyle and environment.
3. A safe neighborhood to call home.
4. Opportunities to learn and grow.
Mayor Lea speaks highly of the Youth Initiative and the push to endorse it. “Anita is an inspiring person. She shows people how much she cares. She doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and getting in the trenches with people. She tells the children they can be anything they want to be, and she makes sure the resources and tools are available for them to do whatever they can to have a bright future.”
Prices says, “You can’t expect different results if you don’t have different initiatives and concepts going on.” She puts her own spin on a Frederick Douglas’ quote: “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Price adds, “ ‘It’s easier and cheaper to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ If you’re pouring into your youth on the front end and you’re helping to establish that kind of thing, that will help young people to be productive and good citizens, that’s going to be far more advantageous than trying to come back and do restorative reparations as adults because they didn’t have the guidance and direction they needed initially as children.”
Her passion is contagious. “People stopped her everywhere we went. And still do,” says Kianna Marshall, Price’s middle daughter. “My sisters and I eventually got used to sharing our mom with everyone because she touches a lot of people. She’s loved by so many people.” Marshall adds, “My mother truly cares and loves everyone.” Price has three adult daughters who all equally admire and adore her for many reasons, but specifically they say, they marvel at her strength, tenacity and wherewithal to accomplish her goals. That’s what she also instilled in them. Marshall adds, “For my entire life she has always being helping others. She does it with such grace and she looks for nothing in return. We admire most her ability to give back. She has such an altruistic ability. She’s always willing, wanting, and able to help. And she does so with a smile.”
Price says her upbringing, the character her parents exuded – that was the springboard to building her own personality that helped her raise her own family. She still lives by the advice her father shared.
“Good manners and common courtesy are virtues we should live by. Daddy would say, you’ve got to have common sense over book sense sometimes. That still rings true, even more so today in this time of strife and civil unrest in the United States. The Golden Rule… treat people how you want to be treated,” shares Price.
As a retired educator with 35 years both a teacher and a guidance counselor, Anita Price has a way of reaching youth, a way of getting youth to open up to learn and engage, and a way of getting youth to give their best. Often Price’s students pushed their own boundaries and conquered tasks they once thought were unconquerable. “I believe in our youth. They are our leaders and investing in them means investing in the foundation of our community. I still believe it takes a village. That old African proverb – ‘It takes a village – that’s for real! Those of us who have children know you can’t do any of this alone,” she says. Price remained true to that stance and used everything – every resource – within her being and reach to live up to that stance. And she took her family along for the journey.
Price’s family have not had a problem sharing her with the community. “She’s my jewel,” says husband Charles Price. “She cares enough that if something wasn’t going correctly, she tries to make it right and better in every way she can.” That passion took Price to the Roanoke Education Association where she served as president for five years. “I was always interested in the makeup of the organizational mechanics behind the scenes as to how to get things done,” says Price. “It’s important to learn and get in on the ground floor to facilitate the change we need to see in the school and in the community.”
As the president of REA, Price helped create and implement policies and procedures for schools across Virginia. And locally, she became the bullhorn in school board meetings that board members heard loud and clear. “Anita was always good at not letting things slip through the cracks, but also bringing unity when we had to make tough decisions, as well as when conversations got heated,” shares Lea. Initially, Price had no intentions of ever running for public office, but after much community support and encouragement, she realized there was purpose in that appointment. Anita James Price also was the first female African American on Roanoke City Council. She broke barriers and pushed limits. “The impact of being the first African American didn’t impact me until I saw it through the eyes of others,” says Price. “It never really crossed my mind until other people said something. I remember one day being in the grocery store and a young lady was with her daughter when she stopped me and said, ‘I want you to meet my daughter, Mrs. Price.’ The mother said to her daughter, ‘This is Mrs. Anita James Price. She is the first African American woman to not only serve on City Council, but she is our first female Vice Mayor,’” shared Price. “The little girl’s eyes got so huge – GINORMOUS – her eyes were as big as saucers. She beamed and grinned. And that’s when it hit me. This does make a difference. This does resonate with our children – with our babies. This is important work for our babies – it’s our obligation to help them build a solid future,” Price insists.
Price decided not to seek re-election last year. It was a bittersweet, somewhat emotional decision, but as she explained, this was a good time to make her exit. “There’s a solid foundation established with city council. It’s also a great time for me to spend more time with my family and do other things. “I’ll still be involved in this community,” assures Price. While Price has stepped away from public service as a councilwoman, she is not stepping away from youth services. She says she will serve as a youth services advocate as long as she can.