Tuere Butler, director of operations for the nonprofit Plywood People, spent 20 years working side-by-side with the late Congressman John Lewis in constituent services and as district director. We asked her to tell us about her new role, share some memories of working with the civil rights icon, and what she’s listening to for our new Spotify channel. Listen to her playlist at the link below.
Q. Tell us about your work with Plywood People and how the nonprofit helps the startup community.
A. Plywood is a nonprofit leading a community of startups doing good. Social entrepreneurship at its best. We have a strong Advisor Network (think mentors for entrepreneurs and startups) that I lead and recently just created our very own fellows program where two candidates get to immerse themselves in Plywood’s culture and our continuously growing startup family. I also oversee Plywood Place, which offers a safe co-working space for people looking for a vibey place to work. Basically, I handle the day to day operations of the organization. Plywood is very unique in that we offer coaching, assistance, and a cohort driven curriculum to startups both in the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Community is fostered organically by the rhythms and norms of daily interactions of our commuters and office tenants. It truly is unlike any place in Atlanta!
Q. What’s a fond memory – or two – of working alongside John Lewis?
A. It was 2008, and as a constituent services representative, one of my issue areas was Veterans Affairs. At the time, there were challenges with returning veterans of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom to establish the service-connected benefit of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. As a young staffer, the Congressman charged me with putting together a forum with all of the heavy hitters from the VA Administration to former Senator and war hero Max Cleland to our veteran constituents who were affected. He knew I was nervous and scared because of the magnitude and the weight of the potential outcome this forum would mean for veterans of the 5th District, but also across the country applying for service connected benefits. The Congressman told me he had faith in my ability and encouraged me to trust myself and effort put forth. It spoke volumes to me, a life lesson that will stay with me. I will forever be in awe of his memory and recall. The Congressman could recall specific details of the day, the time, who was there, who said what. Just about everything. He never forgot a face and when he said, “It’s good to see you, young man or it’s good to see you, young lady.” He truly meant it.
Q. What lasting lesson did you learn while working for the people of the 5th District? Have you thought about running for office yourself?
A. Lasting lesson – people want to be heard and feel seen. No matter the circumstances, the overall need is that people long to be understood. So be available… You may not be able to help everyone with their issue, concern or challenge but treating people well and with respect even if you have to deliver news not favorable, they will walk away appreciating your intentionality and integrity. Have I thought about it [running for office], sure but I don’t think I will. It’s not a desire of mine.
Q. What are a few of your favorite things about Atlanta?
A. My local coffee shop is Dancing Goats on North Avenue. Before the pandemic, you would find my husband and I at the bar everyday chatting it up with our favorite baristas and other regulars. If you’re into tea, Just Add Honey, which is right off the BeltLine behind Ladybird, is phenomenal! We are big on museums and would often frequent the High for exhibits; our favorites were Virgil Abloh and Basquiat. We are also big on ramen and almost lost our minds when LA’s Silverlake Ramen opened up right in the heart of the city. Always down to exploring new places in the different pockets of Atlanta. I love being outside, so the BeltLine is the perfect way to get around on the weekends. Never a dull moment.
Q. What song or album is currently on repeat on Spotify?
A. Promises, Maverick City Vol. 3