2022 Candidate Questionnaire: Jacob Bennett For Harford County Council District F
HAVRE DE GRACE - The Havre de Grace Patch spoke to Jacob Bennett about his history, why he is running for office and his positions on local issues.
Bennett is running against Curtis L. Beulah for Harford County Council District F.
Below are Bennett's answers to our candidate questionnaire.
What is the primary reason you are running for this office?
"The whole reason for my adult existence is taking care of children; that's why I've been a public school teacher for the past seven years, and before that, I ran a mentoring program for children living in public housing. Before that, I was the program director at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation in Harford County. Everything that I do goes back to taking care of kids."
"In my first three years of teaching, we cut nearly 500 teachers from Harford County Public Schools, which means for the entirety of those three years, at the end of the school year, I had to sit by my phone and see if I was going to get the phone call saying that my position had been cut. It was a very politically awakening experience as well because I quickly realized that there's so much more to education than just showing up to the school."
"I learned quickly that we need to do an adequate job securing funding for our schools here in Harford County. So I started attending county council meetings and going to different functions to meet with local politicians. I realized it wasn't just our schools that we weren't taking care of, but all sorts of important aspects of local government were going underfunded and under-cared for. When I wanted someone to run, and no one showed up, my wife and I decided that we would put our hat into the ring and be that someone for our community and our kids."
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected?
"There's a lot of different things that I want to work on policy-wise, but I think it can all be boiled down to using my seat on the county council to bring important issues to the forefront of our discussion and hold us accountable for making sure that those issues are addressed and taken care of."
"Being a public school teacher in our community, always working in Title Nine schools means that I work with and see our community members at greatest risk and in the greatest need. It gives me a perspective that is very important for the council floor."
"I can't promise I always get the majority vote on my side, but I can promise that I will put forth the things that need to be known and put pressure where pressure should be applied to take care of those things."
What sets you apart from your opponent?
"It comes down to perspective. The work I do each and every day makes the policies that our local government makes feel very real. I work with people who don't own vehicles and rely on public transportation. I work with people whose children only eat when they come to school because there's food insecurity in their homes. I work with people who are constantly changing from school to school due to the inability to afford housing. I work with people who struggle to find a job because they can't get to work or afford a vehicle. I work with people like my wife, a full-time educator, in a pre-K classroom. Her starting salary was $20,000 a year, and that's with a college degree. So I'm on the ground floor witnessing the impact of policy decisions. That perspective will give me a unique position on the council that our current representation doesn't have because their work is out of county and not connected to those in need."
Where do you work, and what is your job title?
"I'm a public school teacher here in Harford County Public Schools. Previously, I taught kindergarten for the past six years. This year, I'm teaching middle school science."
"Before that, I ran the community mentoring program in Salisbury, Maryland. That program provided after-school services and one-on-one mentoring to children who lived in the public housing of Salisbury on Booth Street and Church Street. Before that, I was the program director, conservation ecology director, and NAC nature science director at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation in Harford County."
"I'm also an organizer, an active member of Harford County Education Association, which is the teachers union. I serve on a local level and state level. I also serve with the Maryland State Department of Education. I work on the blueprint, account implementation, and accountability board."
What are your age and birthplace? Other family information you'd like to share?
"I'm 27 years old. I was born and raised in Harford County. I am a third-generation Harford County resident. My grandpa, Bronson Parsons, owned a dairy farm right here in Harford County. This community means a lot to me, and I've been a part of it for a long time."
Please list the schools and colleges you attended, the degrees you attained, and when.
"I'm a graduate of Harrisonville High School here in Harford County. I got my bachelor's degree in elementary education with a minor in middle school science from Salisbury University. I'm certified to teach early childhood, elementary, middle school science, and high school earth science. I'm currently pursuing a master's in school improvement leadership from Goucher College."
Approximately how much money do you expect to spend on your campaign?
"We have raised and spent just over $15,000. We went into this campaign with a budget of $12,000, and we were going to stick to it. We're running against people in this county who spend over $100,000 on these races. That's something that, personally, I could not ethically justify asking for that amount of money when I can think of the good that money could have done elsewhere."
"We have had over 150 individual donations throughout this campaign, with the average donation being less than $100, which is something we're very proud of and thankful for."
How long have you lived in Harford County District F?
"Pretty much all of my life."
What's your favorite thing about Harford County District F?
"Harford County is a place where you feel its history. Living right here in downtown Havre de Grace, I live in a home that's nearly 100 years old, which is extraordinary because I can see pictures of my house with the big tree out front as a little sapling."
"That history is something that's very much so appreciated in this county. You know, people talk about their heritage, their lineage, and what their family has done for our community. Thanks to that, our community in this county has such a stronghold on volunteerism and supporting one another."
"My wife and I go to St. John's Episcopal Church and help at St. John's during the summer feeding our community event. We also support St. John's towers, which helps house those who are retirement age but might not be able to afford housing and stay in our community otherwise."
"It's just a beautiful place to live and to experience life and be a part of the community because you feel the importance of our future by knowing the history of our past."
What is the biggest problem in Harford County District F?
"The overarching problem is not recognizing and taking action on the needs within our community and losing focus as a local government on the importance of ensuring that everybody is okay. That should always be the baseline goal and expectation of the government. We pay into it with the expectation that everyone will be okay."
"Sometimes we lose sight of things, and we overdevelop communities and block people off from a sustainable way of living, or we don't take sufficient action to make sure that a community can hold on to their hospital, or we underfund schools in such a way that all of a sudden, Harford County has the largest student to teacher ratio of any jurisdiction in the state of Maryland."
"It's important that as a community, we get realigned to our true north so that people can once again be fully taken care of in Harford County."
Patch has reached out to Bennett's opponent Curtis Beulah, and hopes to post his interview later this week.