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My Family History

I grew up hearing stories about the Holocaust. My grandfather Solomon was the only survivor from his family. He immigrated to America a broken man, alone but alive. Yet he made a life for himself, grew roots, got married, had children, grandchildren and is a real-life example of the American Dream.

My grandfather’s experience, and his ability to articulate the horrors that were inflicted on him (and millions more) left its mark on my soul and helped me to develop a sense of compassion for all of humanity. But what I also learned is not everyone has the same chance at achieving the American Dream.

I think about my grandfather and the horrors he and millions of other people experienced in the Holocaust. I am so grateful that my grandfather lived. Because of his survival I have my mom, my aunt and uncle, my sisters, my cousins, nieces and nephews and now my three sons. We all breathed life because he was given the chance to live and dream right here in America. What this country did for him is a debt I carry with me. I live my life trying to pay that debt forward.

Increasing my Civic Engagement

Following the recent presidential election, I decided to increase my community engagement through increased civic service. I have considered public service for much of my adult life, but I never seemed to have the “calling.” It wasn’t until I heard several political figures I respect calling for citizens to stand up and get involved in the democratic process that I realized my time was now.

Prior to that, I had always been registered without party affiliation, even though I mostly endorsed Working Family and Democratic Party candidates; but I joined the Democratic party in January this year.

Democrats must convince voters that we are the party for working families and adults. We must convince voters that it is the Democratic Party that has been fighting for equity and inclusion, economic security, environmental protections and a reformed criminal justice system. I want to be a part of that solution.

It didn’t take long for me to identify the potential difference I could make as the 3rd district Representative on the Tompkins County Legislature. I have devoted my professional career in the service of others. I hope you will give me the chance to serve you as the 3rd District Representative on the Tompkins County Legislature.

Preparedness for the Job

I first began considering public service while studying for my Master’s Degree in Public Administration (2006-2008). In the years that followed, I honed my skills in fiscal management, program development and strategic planning while overseeing a broad range of social service programs, often through government-funded contracts. In 2010, however, my desire to become more engaged in the community began take shape. Some examples of how I have applied my experience in support of broader community needs include:

• Leading a successful turnaround effort for a nonprofit experiencing major fiscal shortfalls and stagnant wages, then redistributing agency resources in the form of salary improvement and pay equity initiatives including: becoming a living wage employer, and increasing all wages by 45% over a 6-year period.

• Expanding programs services into rural areas, into urban settings and to where older adults have limited access. Initiating new program services for runaway and homeless youth, adults fostering (kin) children, and more broadly program services to community members in our downtown business district in need of additional supports.

• Participating in the City of Ithaca’s Municipal Drug Planning Committee that led to the creation of “The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy.”

• Participating in start-up efforts that led to the incorporation of Love Living at Home, a new local nonprofit aimed at supporting older adults so they can continue to live independently in their community.

• Serving on other local nonprofit boards and committees including: The Mental Health Association of Tompkins County, the Tompkins County Community Mental Health Services Board, the United Way of Tompkins County and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

• Volunteer coaching for many grade school boys in basketball, baseball and soccer.

Values as a Leader

Collaboration: One of the management philosophies I like to share is my desire to make as few decisions as possible. It isn’t out of any reluctance to make them; it is just that I define my role in the decision-making process as one who is responsible to facilitate decision making. As such, my task is more often to increase engagement and participation so that a more meaningful discussion takes place. The decisions that are subsequently made, having come from a collaborative process, are more likely to be inclusive of some broader community needs.

Flexibility: To facilitate effectively, I also need to remain flexible in my thinking and open to change. Change happens in our environment every day, and the factors that led to how we operate today were defined in yesterday’s environment. Effective leaders constantly re-evaluate, and a leader can become more influential if (s)he balances what is fresh and new with perspective from sources that are more established.

Humility: When people with passion and understanding propose a policy agenda that hadn’t been prioritized, it is the responsibly of the leader to recognize their lead. In government policy, the will of the people and the needs of the many must remain the focus of the policy agenda. Being a leader often means putting aside a personal priority when a greater consensus emerges.


Committee to Elect David Shapiro
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