County Democratic Party Chair Started Her Path at Tri-C
Shontel Brown followed a passion for public service, becoming the first woman and first African American to head the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party
Public service has always been a part of Shontel Brown’s life. Even as a child, the 2012 Cuyahoga Community College graduate was motivated to help those who couldn’t help themselves.
“It’s something that is innate in my family,” Brown said. “I grew up around it. We were always active members in our church. I viewed it as an honor and privilege to help others.”
But public service is one thing — a career on the uppermost rungs of regional government is another. When she enrolled at Tri-C, Brown didn’t have any designs on a career in politics. She had built a successful career in the sales and marketing field. Her professional claim to fame was as the founder and owner of Diversified Digital Solutions, a printing and promotions company serving the small and midsized business space.
Her Tri-C business management degree was meant to serve as additional momentum for her private-sector career.
“I really just wanted to complete my degree and continue on my career path,” said Brown, 43. “I had this idea that society wants you to have a college degree, and I wanted to meet that expectation.”
But as she progressed at Tri-C, and as she continued to build her company, Brown started seeing parallels between her job as a business executive and the job of elected officials. It rekindled her interest in public service.
“I had worked in sales and marketing, I was making a good living, but I was also finding out that money isn’t everything,” she said.
Brown decided to run for public office, serving three years on the Warrensville Heights City Council before becoming District 9 representative on the Cuyahoga County Council. But it was all a prelude to her current position.
In 2017, Brown was elected chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. She is the first woman, and the first African American, to hold the position.
It’s a position that allows her to utilize all of her accumulated business and executive experience in a role that serves not just the party, but the community at large.
“It just kind of hit me one day that I’m doing virtually everything a CEO does, at the top of a very influential organization,” Brown said.
Brown will reach the halfway point of her four-year term in August. At the outset of her term, one of her goals was to increase voter turnout.
“Last year, we delivered the highest voter turnout in a midterm election,” Brown said. “About 55 percent of registered voters went to the polls. The usual turnout for a midterm is 40 to 45 percent.”
In the remainder of her term, Brown wants to continue encouraging voter turnout while helping to advance the Democratic Party’s other objectives throughout the region. As she does, she’ll draw on a knowledge and skill base that was cultivated with help from Tri-C.
“At Tri-C, I learned more about organizational structures and economics and how all of that can impact a city and a county,” Brown said. “I learned more about developing and maintaining good relationships with people.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the curriculum at Tri-C is tough. It’s going to challenge you and prepare you for the world. You’re going to develop communication skills, you’re going to learn how to persevere when things aren’t going your way. I had trouble in math class, but my teacher was supportive and showed me that I could be successful as long as I put in the work. Those are valuable lessons that I still use to this day.”
March 15, 2019
Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org