By Caroline Daly, October 2nd
Shelia Huggins is running for election for the Durham City Council in North Carolina.
Huggins has lived in Durham for a little over 20 years with her husband and daughter. Over the past nine years, she has worked in three different Durham city departments and is involved with many organizations and political action committees.
She served as the senior economic and workforce development administration manager, an assistant director of community engagement, a real estate division manager, and an operations and evaluation administrator for the city of Durham.
According to an article from ballotpedia.org, Huggins has also served as secretary of the North Carolina Democratic Party African American Caucus, the vice chair of the Wake County Democratic Party, and a member of the Democratic National Committee and the North Carolina Democratic Party State Executive Committee.
She is also a member of the George White Bar Association, the Durham County Bar Association, and the Durham Democratic Party.
Being an involved community member and having experience as a city employee has shaped Huggins’ mission. The main focus of her campaign is better paying jobs and better opportunities to improve the quality of life for Durham residents.
“It’s not just jobs. It’s better paying jobs. I will be really clear about that,” Huggins said.
She believes the conversation around the Durham elections is centered on affordable housing but not the job side of the problem. She believes the two issues are connected.
“I tell people we talk a lot about affordable housing, but there is no house that’s affordable if you don’t have a job or an income to pay for it,” Huggins said.
There are a lot of new companies moving to Durham, and Huggins thinks the city can be better about making sure residents are getting job training with the skills and experience they have to get better paying jobs.
She also believes the increased use of automation and AI has massively impacted the job market and removed many valuable jobs from the workforce. This causes residents to struggle and find new jobs and delays career progression in their lives.
Huggins wants to combat job shortages and poor job wages on the city level by providing more support for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. From experience, she says they are understaffed and do not have adequate resources to properly help the city.
She said, “I’m all about helping people get better jobs so that they can make better wages, so that they can better take care of themselves.”
Along with her political experience, Huggins also has a law and science background. She earned her B.S. in biological sciences with a microbiology specialization and a minor in genetics from North Carolina State University. She holds an M.P.A. in environmental policy and management from NC State, as well as a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She was an environmental chemist and chemistry technician for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Huggins also owns her own law practice in Durham, focusing on business, contracts, media, internet, employment, sports, and entertainment.
Huggins wants to use her science background to look into how housing is impacting the environment.
She believes Durham needs a comprehensive assessment about how the city makes decision pertaining to the environment. Before voting, city council members should be given a comprehensive memo containing a recommendation from staff, the financial impact, disadvantages, etc.
“If you are not asking the questions, then you don’t know. And so I think that we need to add that to our agenda memo process so that we can start to have a better understanding of how we can make our environment better and clean and safe and all of that,” Huggins said.
Huggins hopes to improve the lives of Durham residents by providing the city with better jobs, better housing, and a better environment so their lives can improve overall.
Primary elections will occur on Oct. 10 and the general election will occur on Nov. 7.
Story edited by: Olivia Dela Cruz