Sheila Finlayson (D) | Ward 4
Incumbent, first elected in 2007; challenged by Toni Strong Pratt
Sheila Finlayson currently serves on the Public Safety Committee, the Housing and Human Welfare Committee, and the Mayor’s Education Commission. Two affordable housing complexes in her ward, Newtowne 20 and Woodside Gardens, are in line for redevelopment, but there are no specific plans as of this date. Finlayson sees the rehabilitation of these areas as one of her primary concerns—especially Newtowne 20, where many apartments are boarded up and recreational areas are nonexistent. In addition to difficult living conditions, residents in both developments also suffer from high drug usage and violence.
At the time of this interview, Finlayson had just come from days of council meetings relating to the next fiscal year’s budget, which was expected to pass on June 19. She was especially pleased that the budget included funds for a sidewalk on Russell Street in Ward 4.
A native Annapolitan, Finlayson not only went to the public schools here, but she taught for 35 years in the Anne Arundel public school system, including at the original Bates Middle School. Most of her teaching career was spent at South River High School, and she was the president of the Anne Arundel County teachers’ union for a number of years. She also taught for a year at Sojourner-Douglass College in a special program for troubled teenagers who had few academic skills.
Finlayson supports legislation that would ensure a living wage, would set goals to include more women and minorities in all city jobs, and would include funds to hire an attorney and auditor for the City Council in order to make the council more independent. In recent years she voted to sell the city’s golf course, provided the funds were spent to build a year-round pool, and she says she is dedicated to the city’s continuing to manage the Pip Moyer Recreation Center.
This profile is based on interviews Action Annapolis conducted with the candidates in June. Finlayson also attended the Action Annapolis-sponsored Candidate Meet and Greet on June 7, 2017.
Finlayson Kick-off Event
June 21, 2017
Ward 4 Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson kicked off her re-election campaign Tuesday morning with friends, family and a core of local elected officials she referred to as her “team,” that included fellow aldermen Jared Littman, Ross Arnett and Kenneth Kinney and Maryland Sen. John Astle.
“They’re all part of a team effort,” Finlayson said, addressing the gathering, which also included campaign sponsors and representatives from city fire and police department unions, who she described as critical supporters of hers throughout her 10 years in elected office.
She touted the budget just passed by the council, and particularly, the contributions she made to securing funds for sidewalks on Russell Street linking the Bates Legacy Center to the nearby bus stops and funds for the Annapolis Film Festival.
Other speakers included Sen. Astle, who spoke about Finlayson’s “passion” for public safety, and the Rev. Henry Green who talked about her regular presence at Annapolis High School where Finlayson, a former teacher and president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, greets students on their way into school at 6:45 a.m.
Finlayson spoke about priorities like efforts to bring back community policing and get more women into “true leadership” positions in the city, highlighting the absence of any women at the director level in Mayor Mike Pantelides’ administration.
“Women are not valued as far as I can see,” she said. “Women have great value… We need our leadership to recognize that.”
She spoke about her work on the Forest Conservation bill, her efforts to expand lower-income, “workforce” housing and the creation of a summer jobs program for local teens, which she says has employed 500 youth in its three years of existence. She also recounted working with the Annapolis faith-based community to develop security measures after a shooter entered Mother Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
“We worked on coming up with a safety plan so that they can have a defense,” she said. “This is a new day.”