In a historic move for the Sedgwick County Democratic Party (SCDP), both the County Chair and Vice-Chair positions are held by African Americans. Joseph Shepard, 27, and Danielle Johnson, 34, are the recently elected party chair and vice-chair, respectively.
In addition, the party’s leadership team has a fresh new perspective, with three of the five serving officers under 35.
In a statement released following the election, SCDP secretary Lindsey Drees spoke with excitement about the bold change. “SCDP recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership roles, and the need to make room for the new voices leading us into the future. We are thrilled to announce the election of Joseph Shepard as the Chair of SCDP.”
As chairman of SCDP, Shepard’s role is to ensure that the public is well-educated on the qualifications of candidates and the issues they plan to address if elected. He is also responsible for developing the organization’s infrastructure.
Shepard’s strategy calls for a more open and honest party that responds to it members of the party, not just during an election, but before and after the election.
“We will work to make progress for the working-class families in our county by supporting our elected leaders, pushing for legislation that uplifts every member of our community, and gives the most vulnerable a fighting chance at living a life where health care isn’t a privilege, but a right,” said Shepard.
Another of his goals is pushing for equitable pay for Black and Brown families, so that they can have the same “same economic prosperity that takes place in suburban areas.”
This Duo Has History
This is Johnson’s second-term as vice-chair. A well-known community connector, Johnson currently works as the Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Wichita State University and is the Co-Owner of Inclusive Growth Strategies. She and Shepard first connected at WSU, when Shepard was a student.
Johnson was a mentor for Shepard. He credits her with helping him develop his leadership skills and with teaching how to navigate power as a young person.
Shepard has been building his political platform in Wichita since he arrived here, from Oceanside, CA, in 2011 to attend WSU. From 2015-2017, he served two-terms as WSU’s Student Government Association President. In 2019, he ran a “first class” campaign for an at-large seat on the USD 259 school board. He made it past the crowded primary, but then squared-off against an eight-year incumbent and lost the election.
That loss, said Shepard, motivated him to work even harder in the community.
Currently, he is employed as the Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life at Newman University, a position that further allows him to develop diversity and inclusion.
As an LGBTQ man of color, Shepard has had his share of unfortunate dealings with both racism and homophobia. “In both situations, I show up and work towards creating a society where people in either community, Black or LGBTQ, will never hesitate to show up because of their identity, instead always allow their work to speak on its’ own.”