Three political newcomers are the newest candidates to indicate they are running for Durham City Council.
Kershemia “Shea” Ramirez has announced plans to run for Durham mayor, while LeVon Barnes and John Rooks Jr. are seeking the Ward 2 seat.
The political newcomers recently filed statements of organizations with the Durham County Board of Elections.
New candidates are required to file statements of organization within 10 days of a public announcement of their candidacy. However, candidates don’t file paperwork to be on the actual ballot for the non-partisan municipal elections until a two-week period starting July 7. City Council members are elected to four-year terms.
Under the current schedule, the primary would be held Oct. 10, but proposed legislation in the General Assembly would push the primary election back to September.
Small-business owner Kershemia “Shea” Ramirez has indicated she is running for mayor. Ramirez, 44, is a tax preparer who owns the one-person agency Tax Genius and SHee’Bella Modeling & Talent Agency.
Ramirez said she is concerned about crime and wants to implement more programs to entertain and help young people pursue their natural talents.
“A lot of kids they have different gifts, if we just expound on their gifts that would help change Durham,” she said.
Ramirez said her talent agency works with individuals and schools to present youth programs that help increase their self esteem, develop their talent and provide other community services.
“I have a heart for the community,” she said.
Ramirez said she started a nonprofit — A Beautiful You — about a year ago to continue community work she has been doing for years under her talent agency. Neither the state nor federal government has a record of the nonprofit. Ramirez said she was working with a consultant she thought had handled the state application and she hasn’t finished the federal process.
Ramirez is the fourth person to indicate she is interested in running for mayor, which has a two-year term. Eight-term incumbent Mayor Bill Bell has said he isn’t running for re-election.
Other mayoral candidates who have announced their candidacies include Steve Schewel, 66, a former school board member and current city councilman; Farad Ali, 50, a former councilman and chief executive officer of minority economic development agency the The Institute; and Pierce Freelon, 33, a hip-hop artist and founder of digital maker space Blackspace.
Barnes and Rooks also filed statements of organizations with the Board of Elections indicating their candidacy for the City Council Ward 2 seat. The seat is currently held by Eddie Davis, who has said he isn’t running for election.
Barnes, 34, teaches PE and health at Durham Public Schools magnet school The School for Creative Studies. He teaches eighth-grade through high school. He also started a youth mentoring group Young Male Achievers. The program, which has been active in Durham since Barnes moved here in 2014, works with about 70 students.
Barnes wants to help those who are not benefiting from revitalization in Durham, he said. Running for office, he said, allows him to expand his outreach and help more people
“I know I haven’t been here long, but I see problems,” he said. “As a leader I want to run towards the problems. I don’t want to run away from them.”
John Rooks Jr.
Rooks, 48, an electronic data interchange engineer who works for the federal government, founded R.E.A.L. Kids United, an organization that helps children throughout Wake and Durham counties with school, clothing and other supplies.
Rooks said he plans to make his official announcement about his candidacy and his platform in May.
The City Council Ward 1 will also be on the ballot this fall. Cora Cole-McFadden, a retired city employee who has held the seat for 16 years, initially said she planned to run for mayor. However, she recently announced she would run for re-election to the Ward 1 seat instead. DeDreana Freeman, special assistant to the president for East Durham Children’s Initiative and a Durham planning commissioner, has said she is also running for that seat.