Shawn Livingston doesn’t come from a political background.
He works as a tech support specialist for an Annapolis school and is a part-time youth pastor at Revolution Church in Annapolis. Running for office wasn’t part of his long-term plan, but when two tornadoes, including one fueled by Tropical Depression Ida, touched down in his Edgewater neighborhood within a short span of time, he started to fear for the future of his two kids, ages 4 and 6.
“Before that time, no tornadoes had ever gone through my neighborhood. And one of those was four blocks from my house when I was home with my kids and that was scary,” Livingston said.
Though the tornadoes were a first for Livingston, they were also a last straw, he said — the last time he saw a dangerous situation in his community without doing everything he could to protect his family and neighbors.
So Livingston decided to run for Jessica Haire’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in District 7 on the Anne Arundel County Council as a Democrat, hoping to flip the region blue and change the way decisions are made in the district and county. Haire, a Republican, announced in June that she was running for county executive in 2022.
“I feel like people have been using the office for political gain. I think what that’s resulted in is massive overdevelopment,” Livingston said. “You can see that in Crofton. You can see that happening in Mayo, in Edgewater, and what that’s resulted in is more dangerous roads. It’s resulted in overcrowded schools and an environment that’s more toxic, which is what I experienced with that tornado.”
He said, if elected, he would aim to return the council’s focus to local, kitchen-table issues, not national political trends.
“As my kids are getting older and I’m looking around and seeing the state of things, I’m remembering what my mom always taught me, which is that if I see a problem, especially when it comes to family, I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and I’ve got to take it head-on,” Livingston said. “That’s why I’m [running for office] now. I have a family. I want to make sure that the community they live in is something they can still call their hometown in 20 years.”
As far as ways to make sure the District 7 community is still prosperous in decades to come, Livingston has a few ideas, starting with infrastructure.
“I think infrastructure is an issue that everyone can get behind,” he said. “I’m thinking about Crofton and Route 3 — the traffic is out of control — and 214. In Shady Side, as well, we have these roads that go to our peninsulas. Two of Anne Arundel County’s peninsulas are in District 7 and the roads are narrow so if there’s a car accident, it literally traps entire communities on these peninsulas.”
Earlier this month, Anne Arundel County Executive Stuart Pittman announced an agreement between the county and state to fund designs to alleviate traffic and add pedestrian crossings on parts of routes 2, 3 and 214.
Livingston added that, since many roads in south county cut through farmland, it can be difficult for residents to travel by any method other than car, which makes it difficult for those without vehicles to get to jobs outside their neighborhood.
“I think, as a council, we can work on allocating money for those things, especially with [President Joe Biden’s] Build Back Better and the [county] executive’s work,” he said.
He said he would also work toward creating county resources to help residents get and maintain jobs.
“We need to expand child care for working families, and we need to make sure there are opportunities for people to get job training that may not have privileges some of us have,” Livingston said.
He also said he would work on retaining and hiring more teachers to keep up with the increasing student population in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools system.
“We can allocate money toward schools so that they can make sure, with all this development and influx of students, they have the space for them. We can allocate money to pay teachers more or we can vote on school board budgets to pay teachers more and hire more teachers,” he said.
Livingston said he doesn’t envision any of his plans will require raising taxes or excessive spending. He said he sees it as simply a matter of wisely spending money coming down from the federal level and being tactful with the county’s budget.
“I think a lot of these programs already exist and they’re just not quite robust enough. I don’t think it’s a matter of raising taxes; I think it’s a matter of moving allocations around,” he said.