Her mother’s daughter: Kimberly Lee Minor shares a sense of civic duty with her late mom

Minor said her mother, Marion Sanders Lee, instilled in her the importance of community, which led her to recently launch a City Council run in New Albany

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Kimberly Lee Minor

Kimberly Lee Minor was shopping at a home goods store on a return visit to her Philadelphia hometown some years back when she noticed another woman peering at her from around a corner. 

“And I was like, ‘That’s really odd,’ and then it kept happening,” said Minor, who eventually ended up face-to-face with the woman after making her way through the store. “And I said, ‘Are you OK?’ And she said, ‘Are you Marion Lee’s daughter?’ I told her I was, and she said, ‘OK, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I kept looking [at you] thinking I was losing my mind, like, is that Marion? Because Marion’s been gone for 20-some years, but you look just like her.’”

More important than appearances, Minor inherited her late mother’s compassion and sense of community, which have driven a sense of engagement she said she has felt from childhood.

“The house I grew up in, my parents really had to fight for it, because it was the ’70s and there were still neighborhoods that did not want to sell to Black people, and we moved into that neighborhood,” Minor said. “But that didn’t prevent my mother from getting involved in the community. She had a career, but she was also president of the PTA and a homeroom mother. She was on the community council. … She made it so that I saw advocacy in action, and that I saw someone who made a difference for other people. … It’s interesting kind of sitting back and thinking about how you become your parents.”

Minor internalized these lessons from an early age, standing up to playground bullies who picked on classmates, and then serving as a class representative and eventually president, roles she continued to pursue and take on through college. Even in Minor’s business career, first with Express and then later as senior vice president of merchandising, merch-ops and strategy for Bath & Body Works, she continually positioned herself out front, which, as a Black woman in corporate America, often meant she was “the first or the only” in a given role, as she explained it.

“If you look at LinkedIn, every day there’s different congratulations: first woman, congratulations!; first person of color, congratulations! And I think, ‘Oh, my goodness, wow, we’re still doing this,'” said Minor, who currently serves as CEO/CMO of Bumbershoot, a company she founded that works with other businesses and organizations to “reposition their cultures for collaboration and inclusivity.” “People who have not opened their mind to other people still have fear of them, which is sad, because we’re all human, and we all want the same thing.”

While Minor has at times felt conflicted about being “the first or the only,” acknowledging the personal weight she can be required to shoulder in the position, it hasn’t prevented her from continuing to expand into new territories, including a recent decision to run for City Council in her New Albany home.

“Since we’ve been here [in New Albany], I’ve volunteered in the school and I’ve volunteered in the community, which is amazing … but I didn’t see a reflection of our community in the seats of power,” said Minor, who noted New Albany’s racial diversity (the community is roughly 80 percent white, 8 percent Black and 8 percent Asian) isn’t mirrored in the makeup of its all-white City Council. “New Albany has grown to be this incredible place. But as I’ve talked to more people, even though it’s beautiful and the schools are great, a lot of people didn’t feel like they were welcomed, or didn’t feel like it was the community it could be.

"I’ve always been an advocate for people who don’t have a voice, or who are not thought of. I’ve built my life on that, my career. So as I looked around, I said, ‘I want to be of service to this community. I want to be a part of that process. And the only way I feel like I can make an impact that is lasting and sustainable is to be in City Council, and so I started doing my research to make a run for it.”

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Minor decided to run in October 2020, and said the feedback she has received in the months since has been “99 percent positive,” though she has encountered the occasional racist email, as well as the odd uncomfortable conversation, both of which she ascribed largely to fears driven by a lack of knowledge of other races and cultures. “What you don’t know, you have to put it in some box, so let’s characterize her this way,” she said.

Regardless of how this City Council run unfolds, Minor said that New Albany would be better positioned for the future if it embraced its growing diversity in all facets.

“If we’re not set up to be welcoming of everyone, and to have services that reflect that diversity — diversity in housing, diversity in the people we do business with — then we’re kind of shutting ourselves off [from] progress,” Minor said. “So if we’re not racially inclusive, and we’re not reflective of the people who live here now, this beautiful mosaic, then how do we get ready for that? How do we continue to grow? … The [leadership] of New Albany needs to reflect the people of New Albany to be a real community.”