My name is Zoraya Hightower and I am running for re-election for Burlington's Ward 1 City Council seat. Two years ago I campaigned on the issues of housing affordability first, transit and planning revitalization, police oversight, and equity for all. In many ways we are looking at a radically different Burlington, Vermont, and world than two years ago, and in many ways, I am running for re-election to fight for the same things.
As Burlington's first woman of color on the City Council, I have fought for working families, renters, people of color, and the houseless community for the last two years. I am proud of the role I've had in passing just-cause eviction and short-term rental policies in Burlington and transforming our public safety.
I moved to Burlington in March of 2016 to work at an international development consulting firm based here in Ward 1. I worked on environmental projects across the globe from sustainable fisheries in the Philippines and renewable energy finance in Kosovo to climate resilience in Kenya. After five years of international consulting, I moved my skills closer to home and now serve as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center on the Burlington Waterfront.
I was born in Germany and moved to Oklahoma in 2001 just in time to watch the Twin Towers crumble in my new American classroom. My middle school and high school years were spent on a working farm several miles outside of the small-town of Ada, Oklahoma. My mother and sister started college at the same time, two years before I did, so I'm not quite first generation. I stayed in Oklahoma through college and earned two Bachelor’s Degrees from The University of Tulsa in Economics and Environmental Policy. After working at a local law firm for a year, I went to Yale for a Master's Degree in Environmental Management. An environmentalist by training, I am also very much a policy wonk. My graduate education included, among other topics, urban and regional planning. Knowing the importance of who is on local citizen boards, in 2018 I joined the Development Review Board.
I was elected to the Burlington City Council on March 3rd 2020 and sworn-in in April when COVID had already altered life as we know it across the globe. Our first and only Racial Equity and Inclusion Director, Tyeastia Green started the same day I, as the first woman of color councilor, did. Less than two months later, the US began a new racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd.