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Education the bedrock of Shivers’ city council campaign

by Keith Barber

Claudia Shivers can start a conversation with practically anyone. In a crowded room, Shivers’ bubbly personality and affable demeanor make her the center of attention. A Republican candidate to represent Winston-Salem’s Northeast Ward, Shivers said her talent to easily make friends has always been a gift. It’s also been a survival tool. “That’s the only way I’ve been able to make it with five children,” Shivers said. Shivers’ children range in age from 5 to 17. Her desire to make sure they get the best education possible has inspired her service on the boards of the Echo Council and the Winston-Salem Youth Arts Institute. If elected, Shivers said she would bring the problem-solving model of those two civic boards and her experiences as a single mom to the city council. “If you had three younger people on the city council with different ideas, the city would look different,” she said. “You would recruit and retain young professionals and they would build this city themselves.” Infusing the council with fresh ideas represents the best reason for Winston-Salem residents to vote for change in this year’s municipal election, Shivers said. For voters in the Northeast Ward, it would mean electing someone other than Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, the council’s longest-serving member. Burke, 75, was first elected to council in 1977, when Shivers was 2 years old. Shivers, 34, acknowledged that Burke’s experience and name recognition give her opponent a significant advantage, but there’s a flip side to that coin. “People 45 and younger aren’t necessarily familiar with who she is,” Shivers said. “They’ll vote for a candidate they connect with.” Shivers pointed out that only 11 percent of the electorate in the city actually voted in the 2005 municipal election. If a higher percentage of voters make it to the polls on Nov. 3, she believes that will give her an advantage. Vivian Burke garnered 480 votes in the 2005 Democratic primary, defeating Sam Davis, who received 61 votes. Burke had no opposition in the general election. Shivers said voters should elect her because of her stellar relationship-building skills and her innate ability to create alliances between disparate groups. She said she would bring that same talent and a creative approach to the longstanding issues of public safety, economic development and affordable housing to help make the city a better place to live. Shivers said the key to improving public safety is creating more economic opportunity. “My vision is to make it clear to everybody that prosperity does not look the same everywhere,” she said. Shivers cited the city council’s approval of the use of Tasers by the Winston-Salem Police Department as indicative of a council that addresses the symptoms of a problem rather than the root cause. “If we had city council members that could admit they don’t know the answer to the problems we face, we could sit down, engage the community and things would look really different,” she said. Shivers said the lack of amenities in the Northeast Ward like coffee shops, bookstores and sit-down restaurants leads to social division, which ultimately leads to crime. If the east side of the city had the same things to offer as the west side, citizens would see a vast transformation, Shivers said.

Shivers said she believes a city-sponsored arts education program would be one way to give young people an outlet, and would ultimately reduce crime in the city. All five of Shivers’ children attend Quality Education Academy, a charter school located in the Northeast Ward. “Something that engages children is going to be a lot more effective than something that punishes children,” Shivers said. “The nature of a child is to explore and learn. If you added programs, increased hours and staffing to parks and recreation there would be something there.” If elected, Shivers, an accountant, said she would advocate the United Way model of economic development, which calls for business leaders to mentor young entrepreneurs and the city to offer low-interest loans to small businesses. Shivers also said she would advocate for public housing that is more attractive and energyefficient. Shivers admits she faces an uphill battle, but the thought of bringing everyone together is what fuels her desire to serve on city council. “I just won’t sleep,” she said. “I won’t rest until I win.”

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