Will Jawando is making his first bid for public office next year, seeking a state delegate seat in District 20.
Jawando, a Democrat and Silver Spring native, has had a public service career that includes working in congressional offices, in the Obama administration and on county boards. The area has undergone many changes throughout his lifetime, he said, and he wants to support and refine the county’s positive trajectory.
“I’ve watched this area go from a sleepy small town to a really vibrant, thriving, diverse community,” he said.
Although there has been a lot of positive change, he said, “not everyone has benefited from the great growth and progress we’ve had here.” He wants to make that growth more inclusive, per his campaign slogan: “Progress and opportunity together.”
Jawando, 30, worked for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) early in his career. He worked on the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which cut interest rates on student loans and increased funding for Pell Grants for low-income college students. He then left to work on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, and moved to the White House Office of Public Engagement after the election. There he focused on partnerships in education and social services, and first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.
Jawando continued this work in the Department of Education, joining the new Office of Strategic Partnerships.
In Montgomery County, Jawando serves on a task force investigating the achievement gap between black, white and Latino students in public schools, and on the African American Student Achievement Action Group, aiming to reduce the gap. After 20 years of that gap narrowing, it has begun to increase again in the last two years, Jawando said. He has also served on the county Commission on Juvenile Justice and currently is a member of the Nighttime Economy Task Force.
Jawando said he will continue to make education a priority in his campaign for delegate.
“We need to do more in early childhood education,” he said. He wants to improve access to pre-kindergarten and child-care programs, to give children an even playing field when they start school and to help working parents.
Many residents also need support when it comes to higher education, he said, especially in finishing college. Many students start college but where they really need an extra boost is support to stay in school, he said. Dropouts face the disadvantage of no college degree, compounded by leftover student loans.
Two other areas Jawando will focus on are economic development and jobs, and ensuring equal rights and opportunities. He wants to increase the minimum wage to at least $10 per hour and improve transit infrastructure to facilitate access to job opportunities. Jawando has been a supporter of the proposed Purple Line and a rapid transit system. Maryland does not have a pay equity law, he said, and women, especially minorities, continue to earn less than men. He said Maryland also needs to extend non-discrimination workplace laws to protect transgender people.
Criminal justice reform is another point he plans to address if elected, by emphasizing diversion programs and getting schools to deal with discipline internally rather than involving police. He said low-income and minority students are more likely to be arrested for offenses than are other students, something he aims to address. He wants to emphasize “rehabilitation, not mass incarceration,” he said. Jawando also supports decriminalizing marijuana.
Jawando recently left a job with Discovery Communications of Silver Spring — where he worked on partnerships for education and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs through Discovery — to focus on his campaign and take a job with the Raben Group, a nonprofit consulting firm.
He lives in Silver Spring with his wife, Michele, and two young daughters.
Jawando could face a dozen opponents in the Democratic primary for three District 20 seats, including two incumbents, Democrats Sheila E. Hixson and Tom Hucker, both of Silver Spring. The district also includes Takoma Park.
The primary election will be June 24 and the general election is Nov. 4, 2014.