Running for Stow City Council has, in many ways, brought life full circle for Christina Shaw. The longtime resident attended Stow High School, raised two children in the area as a single mother, and now hopes to represent the community she has always loved as councilwoman for Ward 3.
Upon graduation Shaw pursued a Public Relations and Communications degree from Kent State University, and worked extensively within the fashion industry as an account executive for Tom Ford and Donna Karan. In addition to her experience in the business world, though, remained Shaw’s interest in government. “I’ve always had a love for politics,” she says. “I’ve always been politically active and politically involved. I had talked about running for city council for years, and decided now was the time to run.”
A major reason for that decision, she explains, is that within the next two years, all of Stow’s city councilmen will be term-limited out. In order to ensure a smooth transition, it makes sense to elect someone new before that change takes place. Furthermore, Shaw sees a need to improve representation. “We haven’t had any women on city council for at least six years, even though 52% of the population of Stow is comprised of women.” Shaw hopes that her campaign is the first of many to begin changing those ratio gaps.
Of the many issues she is campaigning on—including education, non-discrimination policies, and expanding resources for women—Shaw says that putting an effective plan in place to deal with the opioid crisis remains at the top of her list. The State of Ohio has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, and the Stow community is no exception. Shaw explains that while the city has some treatment prevention groups, it lacks actual support groups and other proper resources. “I’ve been regularly attending city council meetings in other communities and support groups throughout the state to hear what they have to say and to try to figure out a model for our community,” she explains. “And they really talk about this stuff. In Stow, we don’t talk about it; some think, if you don’t talk about it, it’s not happening. But there are so many families that don’t have the resources or know where to turn. The proper resources should be readily available to someone if they need help.”
Shaw mentions the countless conversations she’s had with residents when knocking on doors and how there seems to be endless uncertainty when it comes allocating the resources that so many in the community desperately seek. “People have asked, ‘Why are you so passionate about this? Has it hit you personally?’ And my response is, ‘No, it has not hit me personally, but this issue has affected so many lives that we cannot allow this disconnect to continue.’ Somebody made a comment to me, and I truly believe this, that ‘We are all just one decision away from a bad decision.’ This issue has reached so many people across the board, and we can’t sit back and wait to take action.” For Shaw, this means building an effective network of programs for prevention, treatment, and support of families.
As difficult and daunting as taking on an epidemic crisis may be to most, Shaw is no stranger to overcoming the odds. Starting at the age of 16, Shaw battled several types of cancer over a 12-year period. Now fully in remission, the insights she maintains as a survivor are foundations she vows to take with her as councilwoman, and beyond. Appreciating the little things and pursuing each day with meaning and a purpose to help are just some of the beliefs she holds most dear.
That type of determined mindset is much of what has helped Shaw in persevering through the trials of a campaign. Beginning in February of 2017, she began taking advantage of the different training classes available and learned that organization was key. “If you want people to help you with your campaign, you have to be well organized. It’s been a lot of work and it’s a little daunting when it’s your own campaign, but I believe it’s all coming together. For some, things like fundraising come easy because they have people who will finance their campaign. I, however, am not in the back pocket of any business or company, so there are no strings attached.”
Shaw’s experience working on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 gave her an awareness of how a campaign worked and what the experience would be like, and has prepared her for some of the hardships that the experience entails. “I do think it’s harder for a woman to run. I have been targeted heavily on social media, to the point where there was concern by others around me,” she admits. “I really feel that if you are a man, you are not picked apart in the same way. If you are a woman, the way you wear your hair and makeup and the way you dress is scrutinized. If a photo of you is put up, they don’t care about what you have to say or where you stand on public policy; all they want to do is talk about your personal life and your appearance.”
Shaw’s way of persisting is to continue on in the name of championing other women. “Let’s face it, I don’t have a haircut like everyone, and I don’t dress like everyone. And I’m never going to change who I am or put myself into the mold like everyone else. I don’t think that I should. I’m all about supporting women, and I think that in this country when we all start to feel that way, women will go further.”
Admittedly, the results of the 2016 election left Shaw devastated, yet more determined than ever to combat these and other types of issues. “I really thought it was a bad dream; it didn’t feel real,” she explains. “And then I started seeing how people were acting. And then I started seeing the political climate become what it is today. I think it has given people the pass to be rude, to be intolerant of others, and I think that is extremely sad. Truthfully, it was something that gave me a reason to run. I think it’s empowered me to run and to be stronger.”
For one, it inspired Shaw to take organizing action and bring people together. Following her attendance of the Women’s March in Washington, DC, Shaw knew that her Stow community needed a spark. “I felt there were so many like-minded people like me who needed a place to vent and to get together, so I started a political group. We started out with eight people, then we jumped to 260 people, and we started meeting twice a month with at least 60 attendees at every meeting. I started organizing a guest speaker at each meeting, and then we started getting more issue-based and involved. We decided to start the Stow Democrats back up, and now the group is running again.”
Additionally, the Ohio Democratic Party selected Shaw as “Candidate of the Month” and will feature her in their newsletter and other media. She was also asked by the organization “Putting Women in Their Place” to showcase her campaign on their website and share her story through film.
Shaw says she hopes to encourage women to become involved in leadership roles, as well. “A woman can wear so many different hats—she can do everything! And she does it all with a smile, too,” she explains with bright eyes. “I think public service is very important. I would tell any woman, if you want to go into politics, go into politics. If someone tells you it’s a narrow field, still fight tooth and nail for what you want. Fight for those doors, because they will open for you.” Young women, especially, have the whole world in front of them, she says. “Start your political career early and don’t wait. If you’re interested, run for city council when you’re young and don’t wait. I think it’s important for young women to start leadership roles in college, and anything you can get involved in, from different types of organizations or mentoring programs, will go a long way.”
As for her plans on Election Day? “Election Day is going to be very busy,” Shaw laughs. “I’ll be at all four polling locations in my ward during the day, and for Election Night, I’m hoping to have a big party.” With less than 30 days left until November 7th and with early voting starting this week, the anticipation has certainly started to build. “To know that you’ve set your mind to something, and everything has fallen into place from hard work is very exciting.”
Throughout her campaign, Shaw says that she’s picked up on one particular thread that has served as a significant motivator. “From all the different people that I have met and from all the different stories that I’ve heard, and the one common denominator I have found through everything, is that people just want to be heard. There are so many people whose voices have gotten lost, and simply want to know that someone cares about them. My hope is that voters know my campaign is meant to serve those needs, and the needs of not only my ward, but of the entire City of Stow, as well.”