At approximately 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, Rochelle Stevens walked into the Shelby County Election Commission office in downtown Memphis, displaying a smile similar to the one she glared when she struck gold in 1996.
“Good morning. I’d like to turn in my petition for State Executive Committewoman for District 32,” Stevens said. “I’m excited.”
Nearly 18 years removed from having made Memphians proud when she was a member of the United States 4×400 meter relay that won the gold medal during the Atlanta Games, Stevens is now counting on Mid-Southerners to cast their vote and help propel her to what would be her first political seat.
For Stevens, 47, she appears destined to fill an executive seat that will be vacated by longtime political figure and Halls, Tenn. native Gladys Crain. For starters, she believes her continuous involvement with various community organizations since her retirement as a professional track and field athlete in 2000 has made her a viable candidate to take over a district that is comprised of North Shelby County, Collierville, and Tipton County.
Also, Stevens said running for a political post has always been one of her long-term ambitions, particularly when she emerged as the talk of the town after overshadowing her silver-medal-winning performance in the 1992 Barcelona Games by capturing gold four years later.
“You know, after winning the gold medal, I’ve always had aspirations to get out and help the community and help young people with educational goals and to get scholarships to attend college,” Stevens told MemphiSport. “I said the only way for that to happen is to continue to move up the ladder and to push y platform on a higher ladder. When this position became available, I jumped on it.”
After consulting with Reverend Beatrice Holloway-Davis, her mother who trained and coached her intensely for her two Olympic appearances, Stevens had become sold on pursing a state political seat.
The general election for state and federal elected officials takes place in November.
“She has been there from the very beginning,” Stevens, a Melrose High graduate, said of her mother, who accompanied her to the Election Commission Tuesday. “I don’t make any decisions without my mom’s approval. I trust her judgment. She’s my spiritual leader, my mother, and coach. So now she’s going to work closely with me with this campaign. My whole family is elated about this opportunity to represent Shelby County.”
If elected, Stevens said among her immediate objectives would include being a voice for a variety of issues she believes are plaguing communities throughout the Mid-South, most notably childhood obesity and bullying. Other plans, she said, would be to implement grassroots programs that would enable individuals to become better educated about such issues.
A longtime entrepreneur, Stevens is the founder and chief executive officer of Rochelle’s Health & Wellness Day Spa at 319 Poplar View Lane-West in Collierville.
“Not only is that a part of my livelihood, but I’m working closely with the board of directors throughout the communities,” Stevens said. “So those are some viable points. Everyone knows I’m qualified for this position because this is a part of my life being able to push my platform.”
Prior to lobbying for a political seat, Stevens emerged as a worldwide fixture in track and field before ultimately being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Named a national high school All-American, Steven earned a scholarship to Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she became an 11-time All-American after setting records in the 100, 200, and 400-meters. In addition, the four-time national champion was ranked in the Top 10 in the world six times and No. 1 nationally three times in the 400 meters.
After earning a silver medal as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team in the 1992 Olympics, Stevens’ final Olympic appearance in 1996 ended with a gold medal-winning performance in that same event.
As she campaigns for her first political seat, Stevens — a spokesperson and motivational speaker or the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field Association — said her primary strategy is the same as it was when she named an Olympian for the first time 18 years ago.
“Hey, I’m going for the gold,” she said.
With a smile similar to the one she glared when she struck gold in 1996.