A general contractor in residential and commercial real estate, part-time business consultant and longtime community leader in Frederick is the first non-incumbent candidate to declare for the Frederick County Council election next year.
Jazmin Schiano Di Cola, 31, has announced her plans to run for County Council District 3, a seat currently held by council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D). Di Cola, a Democrat, said in an interview Friday she was grateful for all her supporters who have contributed to her “grassroots” campaign so far.
Di Cola was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, during the end years of the country’s civil war. She was raised by her grandmother and was separated from her parents for 10 years before reuniting at 11 years old.
She said that experience, along with seeing how the county—especially in District 3, the western side of Frederick city—has changed in terms of demographics has prepared her for running for council.
“I learned that if I wanted to be successful, I had to work hard,” Di Cola said. “And I had to really be resilient and give everything I had. Part of that is that I don’t need to be convinced of the issues that we face here in the county. Especially [now] that we have a more diverse community.”
Residents across the district constantly have contacted her for help navigating the government and other resources over the years, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
Di Cola, as a contractor for commercial and residential remodeling and part-time consultant for minority businesses, spends a lot of time fielding those questions, directing people in the right place. She also is a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Frederick County and participated in the I Believe in Me food drives hosted by Aje Hill along with other events.
Ben MacShane, an alderman in the city of Frederick, has worked with Di Cola in some of these areas. He said Di Cola is “all in, 100 percent” on everything she does in the community.
“As our community is evolving and growing in a beautiful direction, it’s really important that we have representatives who reflect our community and who themselves are close to the struggle,” MacShane said. “We don’t always need advocates, sometimes we truly need representatives.”
There are some factors that may complicate Di Cola’s announcement. First, M.C. Keegan-Ayer has not decided whether she is running for re-election for District 3, county executive or taking another route. Second, the County Council district lines will be re-drawn before next year’s general election, possibly impacting Districts 3 and 4, both in the city of Frederick.
Keegan-Ayer said Friday she’ll make her decision in the coming months. She did, however, add she has spent more than 30 years advocating for issues on the western part of the city, including business activity, education and other areas.
For now, she’s focused on leading the council through the rest of her term, including issues related to the pandemic.
“In the next few months, I will be examining all of my options. Running for my [current] seat is one of those options ... It would be a difficult decision to walk away from this community in favor of a different community, but as people are telling me—there are people advocating for me to move beyond District 3,” Keegan-Ayer said.
Meanwhile, Di Cola said her campaign has been off to a strong start: It raised $2,000 in under an hour earlier this month, and almost $5,000 as of the middle of Friday, she said.
Di Cola understands the significance of her announcement: if elected, she would be the first person of color on the County Council.
But she added she’s heard from District 3 residents of multiple socioeconomic backgrounds, not just minorities—including about seemingly minor issues, like increased traffic on Christophers Crossing on the north end of Frederick, near where she lives in North Crossing.
“I know people will see me and say, ‘She’s from the Latinx community, she will only represent one group,’ which is not the case,” Di Cola said. “Yes, that’s part of who I am, I’m an immigrant, I am from the Latino community, but it’s not about that. It’s about the whole district, across the district, all the groups of people.”
Feb. 23 is the first day for candidates to file for next year’s elections. The primary elections are scheduled for June 28, 2022. District 3 currently covers much of the western part of Frederick, including the Golden Mile, Amber Meadows, College Estates, Clover Hill, Fort Detrick, Wyngate and parts of downtown.