Our FACE today is Dr. Kristine LaLonde, Metro Councilwoman for District 18. Respected by both parties for her eloquence as a speaker, Kristine’s approach is always prepared and organized. As she is not running for this position again, we can highlight Kristine without it looking like we are playing favorites in an upcoming election. She is also an Associate Professor of the honor’s leadership studies program, Project Lead, at Belmont University, and serves as head of the Belmont”s Leadership Program. Having accomplished all of this while living in Nashville for less than 6 years, you can see (regardless of your own political persuasion) why Kristine impresses us both. Kristine’s quick wit also makes her just a lot of fun to be around.
Where did you grow up?
Alpena, Michigan, a small town in northern Michigan right on Lake Huron.
When and why did you move to Nashville?
Vanderbilt Medical Center hired my husband as a professor. When we first moved here, I felt lost, having left a job I loved and nearby family to move somewhere where I knew nobody. Thankfully, soon after we arrived, a group of amazing women with young kids rescued me by inviting me into their theological book club. We would put our kids in the church nursery and discuss both the mundane and serious theology—I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
My dad is pretty blunt, and one time when I was a teenager we witnessed some downright mean and snobby behavior, by adults no less. He said to me later, “You can come back to this house a drug dealer, a thief, or a prostitute and I will welcome you, but if you ever come back as somebody who treats others that way, I will have a hard time not blocking the door.” I knew he wasn’t saying it for dramatic effect. He meant it. My parents always prioritized kindness and inclusion for everyone—they live it, and while I often miss that mark myself I’m trying to teach it to my children as well.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned from your students?
I learn much more from my students than they do from me, I’m afraid. What gives me a lot of hope for this country is the way in which my students transcend all kinds of differences to work together and support one another. In my leadership program, I have atheists and Pentecostals, far-right Republicans and lefty Democrats, and they all work together in community. I really hope they bring that into the world with them—it will make a dramatic difference.
For those who have not been following the issue, are you for chickens in our backyards or not? (Note: StyleBlueprint likes chickens in the backyard.)
I was the co-sponsor of a pro-chicken bill with Councilman Jason Holleman when I first started on Council, and it was a real battle that we didn’t win. There is a lot of misunderstanding around this issue: properly cared for, chickens will not be a problem. Urban chickens exist in cities all over the country, and they connect people to their food sources in wonderful ways. We have to find ways to reduce our dependence on factory farming and this is one step in that bigger issue.
Best tid-bit you’ve picked up from StyleBlueprint?
Mostly I love the humor you put into your work—I laughed out loud at your piece on what to wear (and not wear) to your kids’ soccer games.
Something that many may not know about you?
The ways in which my connections to the Jewish and Christian communities define my life often surprises people. With a few exceptions for things that matter to the kids–like the school carnivals and our neighbor’s holiday party–we don’t go out on Friday nights. We light the candles, say the prayers, and turn off the phones and computers. The times when it is hardest to honor the Sabbath–like during my campaign–is the time when it’s most important to do. So that’s what we do as a family on Fridays, but I also feel very connected to my church community. On Sundays, I am often a chalice bearer. We have a statue of St. Francis and a piece of art that depicts prayers from the Jewish prayer book in the same room in our house–they both represent things that matter to us.
Any crazy fears?
I wouldn’t say I have crazy fears, but I do fear the crazies, and some of them are making decisions for our state right now.
What books can be found on your bedside table?
I have two new books by favorite authors that I’m loving: Tina Rosenberg’s Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Change the World and David Brooks’ The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. I’m finally tackling The Brothers Karamazov—it took assigning it as summer reading for my students to finally get myself to read it in its entirety—I’ve started and not finished it about five times.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
We mostly stay in on Saturday nights with the boys, and if I’m lucky, my husband, who is a fabulous cook, will be in the kitchen. We do have half-season tickets for the symphony and try to get there as much as possible. A world-class orchestra was a real selling point for Nashville when we considered moving here, and Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero has made it even better.
Thing you are most looking forward to doing this summer in Nashville?
Down time at the pool. I get in more social time during the few months of hanging out at the pool than I do the whole rest of the year.
What is your “must-have” purchase for summer 2011?
More sidewalks for the city. I’m really hoping that the mayor will bring this council one more capital projects budget that includes a substantial increase for sidewalk projects.
What is your favorite hangout spot in Nashville?
I practically have a second office at Fido. I meet both students and constituents there. The coffee keeps me going, but what I really love is Chef John Stephenson’s lunch specials–really spectacular food for a good price. Also the jelly bean machine offers the best thing that 25 cents can buy.
Favorite vacation spot?
I love Northern Michigan in the summer, particularly the Leelanau Peninsula.
Do you have a playlist for a dinner party or a great workout that you can share with our readers?
I love the locals–and I mean right in my neighborhood locals–Buddy and Julie Miller, Will Kimbrough, and Dave Pomeroy’s trio, Three Ring Circle. I have been listening to Emmylou Harris’s new CD a lot–the sound is gentle but the lyrics pack an emotional wallop.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God).
Politics, deliberate time for reflection, and cold beer.