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Educator declares candidacy for St. Joseph County Council seat

With one more week until candidates can start filing for the May primary elections, it’s looking like a St. Joseph County Council district will have a new representative for the first time in three decades.

Educator Jennifer Shabazz, a Democrat, said Wednesday that she’ll run for the District D council seat, a heavily Democratic district that covers parts of South Bend’s northwest, west and near south sides.

The district has been represented on the county council by Democrat Rafael Morton since 1992, but Shabazz says Morton has told her he won’t seek re-election. Morton, Shabazz says, told her he plans to run for the county commissioner seat now held by Republican Derek Dieter.

Dieter is not expected to seek re-election. Neither he nor Morton replied to WVPE’s interview requests.

Shabazz, 46, is principal of Ballard Elementary in Niles. She also has taught in South Bend public schools and was assistant principal at Brown Intermediate in South Bend when it closed in 2018.

Originally from Flint, Mich., her family moved to Plymouth in 1989. For the past 24 years she’s lived in South Bend and has never run for elected office.

But Shabazz says she’s worked for years behind the scenes, as an activist for liberal causes including abortion rights, and as a volunteer for local, state and presidential campaigns.

"I'm at a point in my life where I have more time to give back to the community in a different way," Shabazz says. "So I'm looking to run for office to use my experience and my background and my activism to continue to promote the health and safety of our community."

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).