Aaron Barnett said that during his years of community and recreation work, he often heard comments that he should run for public office.
"People have been asking me for years, because of all the things I do in the community, why I haven't run before now," he said.
On Sept. 13, the Woodlawn native became the fourth candidate to file for one of the two open seats in the Maryland House of Delegates in the new District 44B.
"I am a very committed individual to everything I do," said Barnett, the vice president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 Port of Baltimore.
One of the founding members of the Powhattan Citizens on Patrol group, Barnett is vice president of the Woodlawn Recreation Council and also chairman and founder of Removing Barriers Limiting our Community Kids, Inc., a program that aims to educate youth to keep them in school and active in the community.
'The commitment that I already give to the community, I will give in office as well," Barnett said last week.
Barnett got his GED from Woodlawn High in 1978, then joined the U.S. Navy where he spent about 11 years.
Barnett said that in 1994 he was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
That gave him pause as he considered filing for candidacy for state delegate, he said.
"Everybody has skeletons," he said. "Some people have graveyards in their closet.
"Every man has made a mistake in his life," Barnett said. "I'd rather face my demons head on."
He pointed out that former Baltimore County Executive James Smith, who was the judge who convicted him in 1994, was also the official who awarded him a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Content of Character Award in 2010.
That, Barnett said, proves he has changed his ways and is ready to serve the community in a positive, political light.
"I do a lot of things to try and educate and prevent children from doing down the same path that I did," he said. "The direction I was heading, it probably would have destroyed my life, but what it was, it turned my life around and it made me who I am today.
"We need more transparency [in government]," he said. "We need elected officials who are connected in the community."
The new District 44B was created by the state's 2012 redistricting and includes portions of Woodlawn and Catonsville that had been in District 10.
Del. Emmett Burns, who has represented District 10 since 1995, announced in June that he would retire after the 2014 session.
Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam — who has also represented District 10 since 1995 — has announced she would run for the state Senate in the new District 44.
Barnett decided with no incumbents in the field and two open seats, now would be a good time to enter the field of politics.