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November’s general election marked a return to local politics after a seven-year absence for Salisbury native and longtime community activist Shanie Shields who is now a member of the Wicomico …
November’s general election marked a return to local politics after a seven-year absence for Salisbury native and longtime community activist Shanie Shields who is now a member of the Wicomico County Council.
Once a member of the Salisbury City Council, Shields now represents District 1, Wicomico’s minority-majority district, that includes north and west Salisbury, the town of Hebron and a large swath of rural area that extends northwest toward Sharptown. She replaced Ernie Davis who left the council to run for County Executive.
“I saw there were some things not being done,” she said of her decision to run for election.
In particular, Shields has already met with various county officials to address abandoned houses in Westover Hills, properties with untagged vehicles and trash, criminal activity on West Road and more activities at a local playground.
She also would like to see more affordable housing, particularly for senior citizens, offered throughout the county, not just in Salisbury.
“I don’t expect this all to happen the first year,” she said.
Shields said she also has attended Hebron town meetings, went to look at Barren Creek Road where a bridge washed out several years ago, and visited the county landfill and the Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport.
She is now one of only two Democrats on the seven-member County Council, but she doesn’t see that as a problem.
“We’ve got to work together,” she said. “We’re basically trying to do the right thing.”
Shields has been particularly anxious to get the ball rolling before she was scheduled for open heart surgery on Jan. 31 at the University of Maryland Capital Regional Medical Center in Bowie. She is expected to be absent from the council for four weeks after that.
An aneurysm that has grown to 5 centimeters has caused chest pain and fatigue. “I want it out,” she said.
Born in 1949 in her grandparents’ house on Third Street – now called Delaware Avenue – the family relocated to a house on Jersey Road when Shield was 6. She now lives in the house next door.
Shields attended segregated county schools, including the former Salisbury High School, but then graduated from Wicomico High School after the schools were integrated.
From 1969 to 1976, she worked at Peninsula General Hospital, now called TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, then worked two more years at Salisbury State College, now Salisbury University, before relocating to North Carolina where her then-husband was stationed in the military.
She returned home in 1981 and started volunteering after she had trouble finding a paying job. Her volunteer work included Delmarva Rural Ministries which helps migrant workers, her church, the Charles H. Chipman Center where she is still active as a board member, and with voter registration efforts.
“It’s in me to help people,” she said. “I want to get things done. I don’t care who gets the credit.”
She later found work with the Thompson Publishing Group from 1987 to 1994 when the company relocated, followed by The Daily Times from 1995 to 2009.
Shields was elected to the Salisbury City Council in 2005 and served for the next 10 years during the administrations of Mayors Barrie Tilghman and Jim Ireton. In 2015 she lost her re-election bid to current Councilwoman April Jackson.
She is the mother of six children, including a son who was murdered in 1995. Another son died of a heart condition. She also has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Throughout her political career, Shields said she has tried to stay in touch with her constituents, and regularly visits with some of them who gather for coffee in the morning at the McDonald’s on Salisbury’s West Side. She listens to their concerns and asks a lot of questions.
“The taxpayers are paying our salary and we need to be accommodating to them,” she said.