Kevin Harris for Council, District 5

About Kevin

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Currently I serve in a volunteer capacity in the following roles: member of the Route 29 Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Advisory Committee; Board Member of the North Four Corners Civic Association, Volunteer for Silver Spring Village, Treasurer of the United States Student Association Foundation, and Board Member of Lori’s Hands based in Delaware. Lori’s Hands transforms students understanding of community health by matching them with individuals living with chronic illness in meaningful, helping relationships to allow them to age in place without living in isolation.  I also served from 2015-2016 as the PTSA Secretary at Silver Spring International Middle School.

 COMMUNITY ADVOCATE

Advocating for progressive change is deeply embedded in my DNA, and continues to motivate me today as a neighborhood advocate and champion of improved transit options across Montgomery County. As a lifelong community organizer and activist, I’ve learned the power of active listening, meeting people where they’re at and accepting differences. I’ve also learned that a small group of dedicated people can together build movements for social justice and positive change way beyond their numbers. My roots as a community activist date back to my days organizing the largest civil disobedience campaign at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the 1980’s, to serving as organizing director for the US Student Association and continued with leading successful referendum campaigns to oppose turf fields and development projects that would have destroyed community landmarks. I have never been afraid to stand up for the causes I believe in or been afraid to speak truth to power.

MULTICULTURAL BRIDGE BUILDER

While working on a community cooperative building homes in Nicaragua during that country’s horrific civil war in the 1980s, and as the founder of an exchange program between American, Cuban, and Canadian students involving direct negotiations with the Cuban government in the early 1990’s, I gained an intimate understanding of and admiration for the peoples and cultures of Central American and the Caribbean, a part of the world from where a sizable portion of Montgomery County’s immigrant population has its roots.  I not only gained proficiency in Spanish as a result of these experiences, I also learned first-hand what it is like having to scramble for some of the basic necessities of life which most Americans take for granted.

 GOVERNMENT PLANNER

As a neighborhood housing planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, I worked to build bridges of understanding in communities characterized by conflict caused by changing demographics. I served community organizations such as CASA, a immigrants rights organization based in Langley Park, condominium associations on the Route 1 corridor in Alexandria, and a neighborhood coalition in Anacostia working to manage the displacement caused by a Hope VI development project. I came to understand the perspectives of both residents facing displacement, governments trying to do what was best, and developers eager to play a constructive role in the development of the community.  I also gained an understanding of the importance of implementing a data-driven approach to planning.

NONPROFIT HUMAN SERVICES PROFESSIONAL

As the Director of the bilingual Youthbuild program at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, DC, I learned about the resilience and courage of young people determined to fight all odds to realize their dreams. The program provided construction, life skills, and education training to Latino immigrants and young African Americans who had dropped out of high school or had recently arrived to the United States. Each faced discrimination on a daily basis and through working together in the program, they became friends and gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of their cultures.  

TECHNOLOGY STARTUP ENTREPRENEUR  

As a leader of a startup software company dedicated to helping nonprofits more effectively measure impact, I learned how to build a company from the ground up. I started with not much more than a laptop and cell phone, and in 8 years I grew the company to over 150 staff and thousands of clients to become the national leader in outcomes measurement software. This was where I really learned how the business world worked, learned how to use data to inform decision-making, and lead teams with integrity.  

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

Another surprising life changing experience came after I grew tired of the grind of the corporate world and the toll it was taking on me and my family. I knew that I had to make a change and one that would bring me more happiness and make me a better husband, father and person. I took the leap, quit my job and pursued a personal passion for making people happy through food. I built a small catering business through which I learned how damn hard it is to begin and operate a business on a daily basis. For the first time in my life I wasn’t receiving a guaranteed paycheck from someone else – wow – what an eye-opening experience. I gained a newfound respect for the courage it takes to be a small business owner and the challenges they face on a daily basis simply making payroll and keeping the doors open. It’s a precarious life that you can't understand until you try it yourself.

I live in the North Four Corners neighborhood of Silver Spring with my wife and twins. My passions are my family, spending time with friends I hold dear, cooking, soccer, dancing salsa, and doing Zumba with my friends at the Silver Spring YMCA.