When I started covering Harker Heights city government news in July, it didn’t take long for me to get to know the movers and shakers at City Hall.

The Harker Heights City Council meets for either a workshop or regular meeting Tuesdays, and I am always there.

Like many governing bodies, the council is made up of men — the mayor, the five council members, the city manager and city attorney. All men. Needless to say, testosterone rules the council chamber Tuesday afternoons.

But at the far left side of the council platform sits one lone woman, Patty Brunson, assistant city manager.

Brunson doesn’t usually speak at the meetings, unless asked a question, but it’s obvious she knows her business. She’s the kind of woman who commands attention when she walks into a room, not just by her professional demeanor and attire but also by her presence.

She’s obviously a strong woman, but also kind and friendly.

When I was a little girl, I was painfully shy. I was very uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments and didn’t like being away from home, especially without my parents.

That became a problem when I started elementary school as a first-grader. By the time I hit junior high and high school, I was more comfortable in social settings but still struggled with self-esteem. I didn’t like meeting new people and hated being the center of attention.

These days, people who know me from a distance might never guess I was ever that shy little girl. Now I appear outgoing and confident. In social situations, I can be quite chatty.

To fight my shyness and social anxiety, I think I overcompensated by becoming the exact opposite on the outside of who I was — and still am to some degree — on the inside.

But still, I often feel that same old anxiety when faced with an unfamiliar social situation full of people I don’t know.

Like at a council meeting.

Several weeks after I started working with Harker Heights, I was running late on a Tuesday afternoon.

I usually arrive early to the meetings, especially since the media table is at the far end of the council chamber.

Although my personality has evolved over the years, I still hate to be the center of attention and the thought of walking across the room with all eyes on me gave me fits.

The meeting had just started when I arrived. Taking a deep breath, I began my humiliating walk of shame, but just as I stepped in front of the crowd, my eyes met Brunson’s. At that moment, she did something wonderful. She smiled encouragingly and lifted her hand in a small wave.

I’m sure she had no idea what that meant to me and probably doesn’t remember it. She didn’t know that her small act of friendliness gave me the strength to overcome that lingering childhood anxiety and to say to myself, “Oh, who cares if you’re late?”

She was just being herself, a strong, intelligent, kind and friendly woman anchoring a male-dominated city government.

I, for one, am grateful for her presence.

Contact Kristi Johnson at kristij@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7548

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