De’Keither Stamps is a farmer, soldier, motivational speaker, and future White House visitor who also is a Jackson city councilman. We talked about his unusually high level of commitment to city council meetings and what it cost him to become a councilman.
Q: Something that’s different about Jackson city council meetings is that you bring in a piece of artwork to put behind you every meeting and then you recognize the artist. When did that start?
A: That was Councilman [Tyrone] Hendrix’s idea. And it’s a good idea to recognize the artist.
Q: What’s been your favorite piece?
A: The lady who had the bottle caps and the tiles that she had done some mosaic-type artwork…it was really nice. I like the art that actually means something–I don’t like the decorative kind of stuff.
Q: Yeah, I’m with you. You were a motivational speaker and you still have some videos on YouTube. This video is called “2 Keys to Success”:
That brings up the question: what did it cost you to become a city councilman?
A: Personally, I got pulled over by [Jackson police] and didn’t like the way I was treated. Getting no assistance, that started me down the road of, “if you’re not gonna help me, I need to get rid of you.” I knew it was gonna…financially, it definitely–city council only pays $300 a week. I was making $7,000 a speech, so–
Q: Yeah, that’s a tough call.
A: So it’s a little difference on the pay side. But the value in helping folks out, that’s way beyond any monetary kind of value. There’s definitely an emotional cost because your entire life is open to public scrutiny and ridicule.
Q: I have watched a few segments from your last couple of meetings. It seems to me that you in particular get frustrated that the city council is not doing 100 percent of its job.
A: Well, I mean…everyone has their differences of opinion of how things should go. And they’re entitled to them. We’ve made some structural changes. We used to meet every week. And I said, “this is an inefficient workflow. Why did we just come in here to vote for two items that could be on the other two weeks’ meetings?”
Q: How many council members stay to the end of the meetings?
A: [Pause] Um, I don’t keep track of it. I stay till most of the end of all them.
Q: Do council meetings matter more to you than to the other council members do you think?
A: Well, I have a different level of commitment. I live my life in a very different space. See, um, I’m willing to die for what I believe in. So the commitment level for me for the things I believe in is different.
Q: Big news for you: in a couple of days, you’re going to Washington, D.C. to be part of the presidential transition! Are you going to be taking down the portraits of George Washington and putting up pictures of his golf course?
A: Ha, no, we’ll be in a series of briefings to ensure several issues we’ve been working on don’t fall through the cracks.
Follow Councilman De’Keither Stamps on Twitter: @