Five people are running for the District 4 City Council seat in the May 1 election, and the Oak Park Estates Neighborhood Association hosts a virtual candidate forum Tuesday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Update: Watch the recording on Facebook.
Find the candidate-provided bios, gathered by the neighborhood association, below.
Maxie Johnson was elected to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees to represent District 5 in May 2019. District 5 is a large and diverse district that spans West Dallas, Oak Lawn, Uptown, and a large portion of South Oak Cliff. District 5 shares a great portion of the District 4 city boundaries. Trustee Johnson has resided in and been an active and engaged community member throughout the district for decades.Johnson serves as pastor at New Morning Star Baptist Church in West Dallas. He is a proud graduate of Dallas ISD’s A. Maceo Smith High School and the parent of two sons and a daughter who all graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. Johnson has devoted countless hours to the advancement of the Southern Sector by advocating for equitable resources, a safer community, and accountability. Johnson serves as a member of the District 4 Super Block, formerly served as PTA president and Vice Chair of the Site Base Decision Making Committee for South Oak Cliff. As a community organizer Johnson stood with the South Oak Cliff Alumni Association, student leaders – including standing with his son David, to successfully advocate and procure $52 million dollars in funding for improvements and renovations of the campus. Under Johnson’s leadership, his focus on educational growth, economic development, community involvement, and increased resources in the Southern Sector has led to documented improvements in each of these areas.
In addition to his civic engagement, Maxie Johnson is a musical extraordinaire; who plays a mean alto saxophone and is recognized as one of the best in the City of Dallas. He has played on many Gospel recordings and is in the process of releasing a single in August 2021.Maxie Johnson has proven himself as someone who can take action and improve conditions as a leader in our city. He is deeply invested in the quality of our community shown through his work in the community for more than 15 years. His grassroots work as a community liaison, community organizer, football and baseball coach exemplify his dedication to families and students. Maxie started the only elementary drum line in Dallas ISD to give kids the opportunity to have another pathway to higher education. Most of the students graduated and went to Division 1 colleges on music scholarships. Some have graduated with their bachelor’s degree and a few are working on their doctorate degrees.
His vision and passion for the community and kids has caused many on the wrong path to change and become accountable and successful individuals. Maxie Johnson lost his oldest son in 2019 due to senseless gun violence, and he tirelessly continues to advocate for kids in the Southern Sector. Maxie Johnson is known for saying; “Educational inequity lead to poverty and poverty leads to violence. If we want to fix the poverty and violence, we must educate our kids and our community.” Even through tragedy he continues to work to empower kids, his community, and their families to work toward common goals.
Lelani Russell is a Single Mother, Community Leader and Activist. Although she is referred to as an activist. It is the actions fueled by passion and purpose that make her activism most meaningful. From her time collaborating with “The Feast of Hope” campaign to feed residents of the Glendale community in Oak Cliff. Her participation as a member of Generation Progress’ National Leadership Council. To her role in providing a vital voice of support for the students at South Oak Cliff High school revitalization project.
Dallas native Lelani Russell has found herself heavily involved in “being the change she wants to see”. Leaving her footprint all over the city of Dallas and she now has plans to increase her reach and positively impact one of Dallas’ most underserved areas, as an elected city official for district four. She understands that talking points via protest and the many speaking engagements that she has been booked for are a segue to the groundwork that she has achieved alongside the Next Generation Action Network. Serving as Chief of Staff from 2015-2016.
During this time Russell was featured in Dallas Weekly Magazine’s Top Twenty Millennials. Serving and leading are acts that come second nature to Russell. What is most impressive is that she discerns when to serve and when to lead masterfully. It is her wisdom that guides her in planting herself in places and positions that allow her to make the biggest impact.
Russell is keenly aware of how significant it is to put one’s feet to pavement and put action behind her words.
One would say that Russell is walking the path that was always a part of her plan. Being given the guidance and direction at a young age that opened her eyes and mind to the need for community change through community involvement. As a teen she took a path unfamiliar to many of her peers, by becoming an activist. It matured her, most of all it was the catalyst to future endeavors such as feeding the homeless and battered women, through her non-profit organization Helping Hands and Healing Hearts. As well as serving as a mentor to local youth. To her vision for change today, ratifying the scarcity of food options in her area, bringing forth solutions of revitalization that are community driven. In addition to her efforts to bring solutions to those most impacted by the pandemic, through various relief projects with local organizations.
The single mom of one is dedicated to speaking for the voiceless. Russell understands the need to have a seat at the table, as a decision maker (if she wants to really make an impact) she believes that it is her duty to serve the city in which she grew up and the community in which she lives and raises her young daughter. As she has firsthand experience as it relates to what is going on in the community and the challenges that are before her. Yet, she forges on resiliently with one of her favorite quotes in mind. “For every dark night, there’s a brighter day”.
Matthew Canto is an Oak Cliff native, business professional, deacon, and a small business owner. Matthew and his family have lived in Oak Cliff for over 60 years.
Since 2015 Matthew has served as the Director of Operations for a national concierge company where he has been recognized for business savvy skills and professionalism. In addition, he has been the owner operator of Canto’s Landscaping since 2018 and an Edible Arrangements franchise for 3 years.
Matthew has worked with several local and national community service organizations to support the people of Oak Cliff. He is an active member of New Friendship Baptist Church, hosted the “Operation Turkey” event where he worked with a team to feed 500 families for Thanksgiving and The Players Alliance where he supported the organization in giving out donations to families in need in Oak Cliff.
As a graduate of Skyline High School in Dallas, Matt went on to attend the University of Houston, majoring in Business Management and Communications. His ultimate plan was to return home to give back to those that had invested in his success as a young man growing up in Oak Cliff.
“My grandmother used to always tell me, “Matt don’t ever forget where you came from. I want you to do go to school and get an education, but you don’t get too big for your britches.” I never want to let my grandmother or my community down, so I work hard to give back and to lift others.”
Carolyn King Arnold is a Community leader and organizer whose work as an Educator, Dallas City Council member, HOA President, and a member in many other civic groups has spanned nearly four decades. She earned her B.A. degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and M.Ed from University of North Texas. Her experience in the Dallas ISD includes teaching at Woodrow Wilson and Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center. Prior to teaching in DISD, she taught at Bishop Dunne High School. Upon leaving DISD, she was elected to the Dallas City Council-District 4. She served on the council from May 2015-2017. Additional current/past community service/offices includes President of the Glen Oaks Homeowners Association, Democratic Party Precinct Chair, Delta Sigma Theta Inc. and Friendship West Baptist Church. Carolyn has also been a contributing writer to the Dallas Examiner and North Dallas Gazette newspapers, Radio Host Talk Show Host, KHVN/97.0- “Community First”. Among her volunteer work includes: Volunteer South Oak Cliff High School, PTA (Lifetime Member), NAACP, Texas Organizing Project (TOP), League of Women Voters, and Urban Forestry Advisory Committee. She was also recognized in the 2014/2016 Who’s Who in Black Dallas Editions, Recipient of the Dr. H.I. Holland Education Award and Community HOA Recipient – South Central Division – Dallas Police Dept.
Johnny Aguinaga is a community leader, successful businessman, and homeless advocate in the city of Dallas. Born and raised in South Oak Cliff. His passion to help elderly and low-income neighbors is proven daily through his actions in the community. Some of the many things he has done for Dallas, include helping senior citizens apply for city grants to repair their homes, take down drug-ridden homes, promote small business opportunities, and advocates for affordable housing. He has built dozens of homes for the city of Dallas and for the private sector.
He is also a Democratic Precinct Chair in his own neighborhood of 4046 and a passionate D.V.R. (Dallas County Volunteer Deputy Registrar) that has registered thousands of new voters to help get their voices heard.
His desire to help District 4 is limitless. As your next City of Dallas Council Representative, He will expand all of his efforts toward making the changes South Oak Cliff has needed for over a decade.
Johnny attended Boude Storey Middle School and South Oak Cliff High School. He furthered his education by attending Richland College and majored in Irrigation Engineering. In doing so, he was able to venture into learning opportunities of Import/Export trades with other countries such as Mexico and China in Mining & Agriculture.
As of right now, Johnny is currently in the process of remodeling 2 of 4 homes for The City of Dallas Neighborhood Revitalization Program. He is also working on a private project of a 14 unit apartment complex on Navajo Drive. He is a currently a landlord for 6 small minority owned businesses in the Veterans Hospital corridor.
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