With the help of her family, Tiffany Gibson-Pitts won the race for the Opelika City Council Ward 2 seat in 2016. As a city councilwoman, Gibson-Pitts has decided to make education an important goal in her efforts to improve her ward.
“We just need to make sure that we're meeting the needs of all of our citizens,” Gibson-Pitts said.
Gibson-Pitts is the mother of a son and a younger daughter.
“It was actually a family effort,” Gibson-Pitts said. “I did speak with my kids before I ran, and my son actually encouraged me to do it. They were with me every step of the way.”
Gibson-Pitts said that her children and mother often came with her after school hours to help
“My friends wore shirts with her campaign, and we wore those shirts to school and stuff, and the day that they did the election, we wore them everywhere we went – I wore it to work,” said Austin Pitts, Gibson-Pitts's son.
Catherine Newkirk, Gibson-Pitts's mother, was her campaign manager.
“Whatever she needed support in, I tried to be there,” Newkirk said. “The weekend was a family affair – nieces, nephews, her children, sisters, all of us got out, and we just made sure we got to know the people and found out the needs of the community.”
Gibson-Pitts spent her childhood in Opelika where she attended schools in the Opelika City Schools all the way through her senior year.
“I love this city, I grew up here,” Gibson-Pitts said. “I choose to put my children in the school system, and I think that alone, you know shows that I believe in the system.”
Newkirk said that she was not surprised to see her daughter running for City Council.
“She’s always been one to talk, she’s always stood her ground,” Newkirk said. “I knew she was one of the ones who could speak, and whatever her occupation was going to be, I knew it was going to be her using her brain and her mouth was going to be the piece that she used.”
Newkirk, who worked for Auburn University for 16 years at the Truman Pierce Institute, graduated from Auburn in 2004 with a bachelor's in education.
“It was important for me to finish,” Newkirk said. “I was studying late at night with tests while they were still in high school, it was important to me to be a legacy where they could look and they knew where I was, and they knew what they had to do.”
After graduating from Opelika High School, Gibson-Pitts went to Jacksonville State University where she graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's in criminal justice and a minor in English. She then received a master's in school counseling and counseling supervision from Auburn in 2002.
“I had a very strong female role model, and my mother not only told me what I could do, but she showed me what I could do,” Gibson-Pitts said.
Gibson-Pitts is the founder of Girls’ STEPS, Inc, a non-profit organization with the goal of preparing girls grades three-12 for future careers.
“It’s important for me to go out and uplift other females as well,” Gibson-Pitts said. “I just try to make sure that I’m empowering them to let them know that you can anything you want to do as long as you are willing to put forth the work.”
Gibson-Pitts has is currently in her thirteenth year as a school counselor at Auburn High School, and in 2013, She was named High School Counselor of the Year by the Alabama School Counseling Association.
Gibson-Pitts started the Ward 2 Academy as a part of her effort to improve education in her ward. The academy, which is located in the former Jeter area school, offers GED classes to prepare adults to pass the test and provides career counseling to participants. The academy also offers a mentoring program and a tutoring to local youth.
“It’s really like a community center that’s primarily for the people in their community because I feel that education is the key to bringing those in poverty out of poverty – because people tend to do better when they know better,” Gibson-Pitts said.
Pitts is a senior this year at Opelika High School, and he serves as one of the mentors at the Ward 2 Academy.
“The kids look up to him because, you know, he is on the basketball team, and they want to be on the basketball team, so I have him and his friends come over and talk,” Gibson-Pitts said.
Gibson-Pitts said that she has “a great family support system.”
“Family comes first before anything,” she said.