Councilmember Will Jawando Finds Ways To Give Back, No Matter the Medium

The at-large member of Montgomery County Council has been hosting virtual storytime since the start of the pandemic

Councilmember Will Jawando
Photo by David Stuck

Growing up in Silver Spring, Will Jawando spent much of his time studying at the Long Branch Library. Now, as a Montgomery County councilmember, he serves as library lead on the Council’s Education and Culture Committee. Jawando was about halfway through a tour of Montgomery County Public Libraries’ 21 branches in March when Covid-19 struck.

After the libraries closed, Jawando began hosting Virtual Storytime on Facebook Live and YouTube, reading two children’s books every weekday alongside Mr. Mortimer, the stuffed brown monkey perched atop his black leather couch. These online events offered a brief yet vital break for parents adjusting to working at home, he explains.

“We’ve had thousands of people watching us,” Jawando says. “We have a lot of regular guests that I know by name, and I try to shout people out and be interactive with it.” The councilmember also welcomes special guests, including actor Cynthia Erivo, Olympic swimmer (and Bethesda native) Katie Ledecky and Rep. Jamie Raskin.

Jawando, who cut his storytime sessions to twice weekly once contactless pickup at MCPL branches became available in July, reads books on topics ranging from racism and sexual orientation to gender identity and what it means to be an immigrant. He works with MCPL staffers to choose the books; his favorites so far include “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi and “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio.

Thirty-eight-year-old Jawando was elected and sworn in as the at-large member of Montgomery County Council, meaning he represents the entire county, in December 2018. His first bill—the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act, requiring an independent and transparent investigation of any police officer-involved killing—was signed into law in May 2019.

“I certainly wasn’t one of those people [who] as a young kid [said] I’m going to run for office,” he says. At one point, Jawando thought he wanted to go into law enforcement until, after studying the inequities in arrest and incarceration rates at both the local and national levels, he realized “the laws aren’t always applied fair.”

Jawando recalls the systemic inequities he saw as a child in Silver Spring: His mother worked in downtown Silver Spring, but they lived in a run-down apartment in Long Branch that was infested with roaches and rodents.

“I experienced the great things about Montgomery County but also some of the inequities,” he says.

Focusing on such inequities inspired Jawando to push for increased tenant rights in the county, in the form of a bill signed into law this past January that requires landlords to pay relocation fees if their tenant’s living space is found “unfit for human habitation under certain circumstances,” among other provisions geared toward improving landlord-tenant relations.

Jawando graduated from the Catholic University of America with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, where he played college basketball and founded the first NAACP chapter on campus. After graduating from their Columbus School of Law, he worked on Capitol Hill for many years as a civil rights attorney before joining the Obama administration.

The councilmember’s passion is public service, but he’s also a movie buff (his favorite film is 1998’s “Lean on Me”), a lover of all things apple (think pies and cobblers, not phones and tablets) and a dedicated husband and father to four children under the age of 10.

While Jawando has never been one to plan his future out too extensively, right now, he’s focused on continuing to serve Montgomery County’s nearly 1.1 million residents.

“My goal has always been to have impact,” he says, “[and] help as many people as I can to have access to those great things that are in our area in this county and in America.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the October-November 2020 issue of Montgomery Magazine.


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