BY TONY WEST/ Art Haywood knows his way around housing in this city. If he succeeds in replacing State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) in the 4th Senatorial Dist., he will soon be keeping a watchful eye on the real estate of 250,000 people in Northwest Philadelphia and Cheltenham, Abington and Springfield in Montgomery Co.
Democrat Haywood, a Cheltenham Township Commissioner, knocked off incumbent Washington in a bitter three-way primary contest after Washington was charged with criminal misuse of her office for campaign purposes. He buried Washington in Montgomery Co., carried Philadelphia’s 10th Ward and did well in the 22nd Ward as well.
Now he is busy making the rounds in what he hopes will be his future constituency. “I’m working hard throughout the district,” he said. He plans a campaign of canvassing, door-knocking and calling voters. He will also lead a bike tour across it this summer.
Haywood is familiar with Northwest Philadelphia. After he got married he and his family lived in Germantown from 1989 to 1997 when they moved to Cheltenham.
In a sense, though, Haywood never left the city. His entire legal career has been been devoted to affordable housing and redevelopment issues here.
Originally from Toledo, Oh., Haywood attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was awarded a post-graduate Marshall scholarship at the prestigious London School of Economic and took a law degree at the University of Michigan.
He moved to Philadelphia for a job with Community Legal Services, where he worked to save homes from foreclosure in North Philly. From rescuing old homes, he branched into building new ones, becoming a specialist in affordable-housing projects at Regional Housing Legal Services. In 1996 he went into private practice but has always specialized in nonprofit real-estate work.
His portfolio of past and present clients includes Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp., W. Oak Lane CDC, Progress Plaza and Germantown’s Center in the Square, to name just a few.
Working on the Obama campaign in 2008 got Haywood pumped about politics. In 2009, Haywood ran for Township Commissioner. It is a part-time position that combines the functions of Mayor and City Council for a municipality of 37,000. (Day-to-day administrative tasks are carried out by a fulltime township manager and staff.)
The Commissioner’s job plunged Haywood into the nuts and bolts of government – sanitation, recreation, firefighting, economic development. “My experience in local government has been helpful because it’s made me understand how they work,” he asserted. “We’ve had to pass a budget every year. You’ve got to be balanced and learn how to allocate resources.”
Haywood was Vice President of the Board of Commissioners for one year and President for two.
Education is a strong theme in Haywood’s life. His mother was a public schoolteacher and his wife sits on the Cheltenham, Board of Education. He has done legal work for schools. Raising funds for the public-school system will be his top priority in the State Senate, he says; “I am passionate about education.”
But education alone won’t do the trick, said Haywood. Looking to the future, the candidate insisted two other “core issues” must be worked on as well, as part of the package.
One is raising the minimum wage. “Businesses and families both need it,” he said. Increasing the floor under consumers’ income will lead to revitalizing economic activity in communities where people of modest means live. The other is reducing gun violence to focus on public safety.
Haywood has begun to work with coalitions in all three areas of concern. “Those who agree with these priorities, I encourage to join me,” he urged.
Working in the city while living in the suburbs, Haywood is a firm advocate of regional cooperation. “We must have a city-county alliance here in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” he insisted. Although this region is the state’s economic powerhouse, it will always be shortchanged by Harrisburg unless its lawmakers work together as a team.
Boosting voter turnout is essential to this strategy, he said. He hopes to see a dynamic turnout in the five-county region this November.
Good work in the General Assembly’s upper chamber is a test of leadership, Haywood believes. He is confident he can meet that test.
“What I will bring to the State Senate is leadership,” he said. “I have been President of a local government and led a law practice. I worked with Arcadia University, a school district and the NAACP to create a tutoring program for young people. I worked with Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Phila.) and State Rep. Larry Curry (D-Montgomery) to get Army Corps of Engineers into Cheltenham to reduce flooding. I led an initiative to create a sustainable Cheltenham with reduced emissions and more renewable energy, getting people to make positive changes in the community.
“So we can begin to steer a new direction for the State. Proven leadership is the key.”