Shannon Sneed, winner of the Democratic primary race in Baltimore’s District 13, is on the threshold of leading her district in a new direction. Sneed, who defeated five opponents, recently stood in front of Monument Street Market, greeting constituents as she discussed the district’s priorities and her plan to transform her district’s struggling neighborhoods.
Sneed described her entrance into city politics in 2011, when she first ran against the current 13th District Councilman Warren Branch in simple terms. “I had just had enough,” she told the AFRO.
“District One is right across the street from my house and there was a stark difference,” Sneed motioned. Sneed had been involved with neighbors for years conducting community clean-up campaigns and participated in many of the District’s neighborhood associations. Sneed worked for WJZ as a reporter after graduating from Morgan State University’s graduate program in Global Journalism and Communication. As a reporter, Sneed had to abstain from active political involvement. But after seeing her community continue to struggle, Sneed said that she and her neighbors felt like no one was looking out for them in City Hall.
“People had the same argument as I did across the district. They just didn’t have an advocate – someone who was responsive to their needs. That’s how I got involved,” Sneed said. She lost her first bid for City Council against Branch by only 43 votes. But her razor-thin defeat empowered Sneed and her supporters and Sneed ran again this Spring.
Sneed started 18 months ago, with a door-to-door listening campaign. She met with constituents face-to-face to ensure the same issues she faced on a day-to-day basis represented key concerns across the 13th District. “I know I was the only candidate who actually lives in this community,” Sneed said standing on Monument Avenue, where many of the street’s commercial shops are shut tight with roll-down metal barricades after 7:00 pm.
“I see people coming and going all the time. I’m getting on the bus with my neighbors and I share many of the same concerns that they have – making sure the MTA buses run on time and that we’re getting the best services here,” Sneed said. “I own a home so I know how high the water bills are. I see the pipes bursting; I know the young people are saying ‘Hey, we need something here for us to do.’”
Sneed said the two priorities she heard over and over were the need to bring jobs into the community, and creating more opportunities for youth. Sneed said that the community’s youth feel bereft by the absence of a recreation center in District 13.
John Hopkins University Medical School runs right through the middle of Sneed’s district; around the corner from several streets besieged with vacant and abandoned housing. Sneed is hoping JHU Medicine will bring more of its massive $7.7 billion economic power to the communities right outside its front door. “We always can do better. I want to make sure that we put people right here in District 13 in play for some of the services and opportunities they have at Hopkins,” Sneed said.
“We have been in active dialogue with Shannon Sneed and will work with her to make sure that our priorities are aligned,” according to a statement from Johns Hopkins University. Hopkins has several initiatives prioritizing job creation that they hope will connect with District 13 priorities including their Hospital Health Jobs Initiative, HopkinsLocal and BLocal. Hopkins spokespersons indicated there are opportunities for District 13 youth to connect with their Summer Jobs Program 2016 program.
Sneed’s childhood years in Germantown-Philadelphia gave her the building blocks for connecting with her constituents today. “Although I was not born and raised in Baltimore, if you know Philadelphia, you are aware that Germantown is a community much like the 13th District”, said Sneed. “My mother
said no matter what community you live in – it’s your community. You give back.”
Sneed, who was raised in a single-parent household, grew up understanding the pressures of constantly juggling to make ends meet and send two daughters to college. But her mother, insisted on community involvement. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a politician. I just know that my mom went to go vote in every election and we went with her and my grandparents went to vote. My story is not any different than the folks who live next door to me,” Sneed said.
Sneed’s constituents experience a connection with her that feels like family. District 13 resident Anthony Hardy, said that Sneed’s ability to connect with residents helped him break through the glass ceiling of electoral politics. “This is my first time voting for a woman. I couldn’t believe it when she showed up in my living room to listen to what I had to say,” Hardy said. “Her outreach and outspokenness on daily issues we face will help us.”
Sneed has one more election to face before officially becoming District 13’s latest City Council member. In November she will face Republican challenger, George Johnson. “We have to teach the young people in our community that you can do it,” Sneed said. I’m gonna’ do great – I’m gonna do good, and my people are gonna’ do good. I’m going to live in this community and we’re going to thrive and we’ll be OK, because we’ll have someone fighting for us,” Sneed said.