Gabriel Stuart-Sikowitz has always wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of others, citing tikkun olam as his source of motivation. In Baltimore City, Stuart-Sikowitz, 26, of Federal Hill applies that Jewish principle as chief of staff for Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D-District 13),who was elected to her seat last November.
“I always try and look at any issue and piece of legislation with the concept of repairing the world in mind,” said Stuart-Sikowitz, who co-managed Sneed’s campaign. “How can we make this a better place for everyone? That’s what I know Shannon is focused on.”
Stuart-Sikowitz’s job is to make sure things run smoothly between Sneed and her constiuents. That often requires linking concerned residents with the proper city agencies to address a host of everyday issues from fixing potholes to removing trash to solving inaccurate water bills.
Stuart-Sikowitz completed his undergraduate studies in 2013 at Goucher University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in international relations. Before joining Sneed full time, Stuart- Sikowitz volunteered with the Baltimore County Democratic Party and interned on Capitol Hill.
Despite a demanding schedule, he manages to make time to fulfill his hobbies. Stuart-Sikowitz participates in Baltimore Social, the city-based sports league, and gets to Camden Yards as often as possible to root on the Orioles. He also volunteers with Jews United for Justice’s annual Baltimore Green & Just Celebrations Guide, which highlights environmentally friendly creative green purchasing choices for families and individuals.
How did you and Councilwoman Sneed connect?
In 2011, when I was a rising junior in college, I heard through the grapevine that she was running for a seat on the City Council and needed a campaign manager. I had already worked on a couple campaigns and been through an election cycle in Baltimore County, where I helped kids get off Goucher’s campus to knock on doors for local Democrats. When I met Shannon, she said to me, “Well, I can’t really pay you, but I can pay you with experience and lunch.” That was enough for me. It was crushing when we lost the first time by 43 votes, but it definitely prepared us for the next time.
In what way?
Traditionally, candidates have just showed up to community events, churches and synagogues and talked to everyone at those places. What we did in both of Shannon’s races is knocked on doors and targeted voters who vote in City Council elections. I remember that people were shocked that someone was going door to door to listen to what they had to say. That’s the way campaigns are starting to shift. Once we took all those personal, face-to-face interactions into account, we adjusted our message and took action for the changes our constituents wanted.
What inspires you to be so active in different facets of the community?
Each neighborhood in Baltimore is different, and it’s great. You never see the same restaurant or the same bar within a block or two of one another, and there’s always something different for everyone. It’s also interesting to connect people and to hear what vision they have for their communities and how we can work with them to make that come to fruition. We have a drive to get things done in a timely fashion, but at the same time, we want to make sure things are done with everyone’s best interests at heart.
What are your main responsibilities?
Researching policy, managing Shannon’s schedule and assisting our director of constituent services are among my main day-to-day functions. Almost all the work is figuring out which city agencies we can put people in touch with to solve everyday issues. There’s a whole process to it, and we are always balancing multiple initiatives to better the lives of our residents. No two days are ever the same, that’s for sure.
How do you unwind?
I used to go to O’s games all the time, but it’s just a little harder now. I’m in a kickball league with one of my roommates, and it’s fun because you can just let loose and have a good time with your friends.