Six months before he officially takes office, Antonio Hayes, the presumptive delegate of the 40th District has begun working on behalf of his district. He is assisting Violetville residents in their attempts to revitalize a local park.
While Hayes may not yet be among the most familiar names in Maryland politics, he has a fairly extensive history behind the scenes. Hayes has been an active participant in Democratic campaigns throughout Maryland, as well as in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and at various levels of government, since 1998, the summer after his freshman year at Frostburg State University.
Hayes’s campaign experiences had made him intimately familiar with policy and legislative issues. He was hired by Sheila Dixon as her legislative director in 2003, when she was city council president. Later, Hayes helped run Dixon’s 2007 successful mayoral campaign, following that with service as assistant deputy mayor from 2007-2010.
Hayes, who grew up in Baltimore City’s Penn North neighborhood, also worked as a community organizer for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control, and Prevention, and said in an interview with the AFRO that it was his activism that led him to run for state delegate.
“It started really with my activism,” said Hayes. “And then, my experience working on the campaigns gave me a glimpse into being an elected official – how you can still be an activist but it takes it to a different level, because you have a different platform from which to advocate on behalf of the community you want to see improve.”
Hayes feels the state legislature is the best place for him to serve his native Baltimore because the General Assembly has more direct policy engagement on important issues ranging from healthcare to economic development. “My whole thing was to make a substantive impact for the community,” said Hayes.
Economic development is high on Hayes’s list of priorities. He says the minimum wage issue in Maryland is still alive for him, and that $10.10 an hour is not yet enough. “Part of my day job is working with low income families all the time,” said Hayes, employed as the chief of staff for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, “and we’re finding that even those employees that are making $10 an hour, if they have a family of three or four, they still have to rely on the benefits of public assistance. So $10.10 is a great starting point . . . hopefully the legislature will have opportunities in subsequent sessions, in future sessions, to look at what does it really mean as far as building families, and supporting local economies.”
Hayes wants to see more meaningful economic opportunities brought to his district, and hopes to pursue policies that will spark entrepreneurship in some of the more struggling sections of the 40th. He is aware of the wariness some in Baltimore City have towards the business sector, but feels strongly that it is possible to both encourage economic development in low-income communities and protect the interests of low-income residents in those communities.
“I don’t see the two, business and some of the interests that we have in hiring people locally as opposing views,” said Hayes. “That’s a role that government can actually play, helping businesses get up and running but at the same time, if you’re going to give some type of relief, if you’re going to give some type of tax credit to any developers or businesses which essentially lowers their [operating costs], there should be opportunities to hire local.”
Hayes would like to see area community colleges used to greater effect, providing two-year courses for managerial level positions in job markets that need workers in Baltimore, such as the city’s growing hospitality industry. “More realistically, I think what I’ll be able to do over the next four years is build some of those partnerships with community colleges and the business community to make sure that people have the skills and training, or the certifications that they need in order to transition into the workforce,” said Hayes.
Whenever his run in the legislature is done, Hayes says he wants to be known as the guy who still answers his phone when you called and never became a politician.
“I want to be as accessible as possible.”