STEPHENS CITY — I’m Just Me Movement co-founder Christine “Tina” Stevens made history Tuesday night when she became the first African-American woman elected to Stephens City Town Council.
Stevens, 44, defeated interim Town Council member Steven Happek during a special election to fill an unexpired term. She received 260 votes, or 65.49% of ballots cast, to Happek’s 136 votes (34.26%).
Stevens and Happek are both Democrats.
She will fill a seat vacated by Kelly Ann Thatcher, who resigned from council in June to become the town clerk. The term expires Dec. 31, 2020.
Initially, Stevens thought she lost the election by 10 points, as the Virginia Department of Elections had not updated results on its website. She was filming a Facebook live video to thank people for their support when she received a text informing her that she won.
“I did not believe it,” Stevens said. “I said, ‘Are you sure?,’ because on my phone it said I was still down by 10 points.”
Stevens attributed the success of her campaign to knocking on the doors of about 580 homes in the town, which has about 2,000 residents.
“I will tell you that my goal coming into this was that I wanted to connect personally with every single resident here in Stephens City. I knocked on every single door. I connected with residents. I heard their voices. I listened to things that were important to them. And if people were not home, I left literature with a personal signature that said, ‘I’m so sorry I missed you, let’s chat.’ And I believe the personal touch and those efforts and things that I did to personally connect with the residents is what mattered.”
Stevens also made history with her election, as town officials say she is the first African-American woman to be elected to Stephens City Town Council.
“It feels amazing for several reasons,” Stevens said. “For one, I can show little girls that look up to me that the future can be anything they want it to be if they work hard and if they believe in who they are all things are possible.”
Stevens and her husband, Rodney Culbreath, co-founded the I’m Just Me Movement, a nonprofit organization that mentors at-risk youth, promotes diversity and inclusion and helps people overcome adversity. She works at the Giant in Purcellville. She studied medical coding and business at Lord Fairfax Community College. She is a board-certified Peer Recovery Specialist.
Happek, who was appointed to be an interim council member in August, will no longer be on the council.
“I first want to congratulate my opponent on her win and wish her the best as she acclimates and familiarizes herself with being involved in municipal government,” Happek said. “The residents have spoken and I respect their wishes.”
Stevens’ first meeting as a council member will be in December.
Her priorities will include government transparency, increasing community engagement and a commitment to capital improvements in the town. She also wants to address traffic congestion and update the community playground, among other issues.
Stephens City council members are unpaid.