"This is real for me. I'm a product of Baltimore City Public Schools, so I understand the value of a quality public school education.  One of the worst experiences of my life was losing my younger brother to gun violence in the city I love. I pray that no more families have to navigate that pain. My plans to fix Baltimore are not academic exercises - these plans are based on my life, and my experiences. I've had the honor to serve the public, with integrity, my entire career. That's the kind of moral, ethical, uncompromised leadership Baltimoreans can expect from me in City Hall."

Having grown up in northwest Baltimore, T.J. Smith has been familiar with the struggles and promise of Baltimore city schools from early in his academic career. To this day, his mother is still a long tenured city school teacher and T.J. himself received the majority of his schooling in the Baltimore City Public School System.

More than thirty years later, the school system is still near to his heart, in addition to his mom, T.J. ‘s cousin and son’s mother are also teachers. T.J. has seen how the school system has gotten better, and worse. He knows first-hand that in order to bolster the learning experience, investment in modern, comprehensive, and effective learning tools are mandatory. That includes creating new and tailored curricula in some schools to better prepare our young people for the industries Baltimore is currently attracting around a soon expanding Port of Baltimore as well as the burgeoning cyber security industry in the fast developing Port Covington project. If the children are our future, we must prepare them for Baltimore’s next chapter. Improving outcomes and increasing opportunities for the success of public school graduates is not just a policy priority for T.J., it’s personal.

So is the most troubling and debilitating part of our city – public safety. With a life experience that spans mentorship and revitalization, tragedy and sorrow, T.J. has seen crime, violence, despair, and trauma from both sides of the community.

Guided by a duty to service, T.J. also earned several humanitarian and community recognition awards for his service in the community outside his day-to-day duties. He worked to begin the organization ‘TIES’, which taught young men how to tie a tie, while also providing them with professional development, job application and workforce training, and connection to leaders in the community.

T.J. was also an intricate partner in the revitalization of the Pioneer City community, which at the time faced many of the same challenges Baltimore City does today. Through a collaborative and community-focused effort, T.J. and his colleagues were able to improve living conditions, minimize neighborhood crime, and ensure the delivery of basic services for residents of the troubled community.

Implementing plans to address comprehensive and complex issues isn’t new for T.J. – it’s the way he’s lived his life.

It wasn’t okay to simply be the officer who enforced the law and keep people safe, T.J. had a self-imposed mandate to truly care about every community he served. He took great pride in learning the issues, building long-term bonds, and helping those who need it. T.J. has always been up front and honest with those he dealt with, becoming well-known throughout the region for his “tell it like it is” approach. That’s the kind of transparency and leadership culture T.J. will bring to City Hall.

It’s the way he’s approached every job he’s ever had, including the one you know him from the most: chief spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department. During one of the most tumultuous times in Baltimore’s history, T.J. was the face and voice you saw on TV each night.

T.J. was not only a source of information, calm, and resilience for Baltimore as we experienced grief and anger, he was also part of the solution. He prioritized facts, dealt in empathy, and was instrumental in the agency’s adoption and rollout of body-worn cameras.

But that’s how he’s always been with the community. It was never about shielding you; it was about involving you. T.J became regarded as a national leader in law enforcement online engagement, beginning when he was one of the first law enforcement officials to livestream press conferences on social media. He developed an app for the agency, created a new text messaging method for delivering tips, and hosted a radio show dedicated to discussing cold cases. It’s this kind of modern thinking and collaborative effectiveness that needs to be ingrained in every agency in the city.

T.J loves his city, but like too many of you, he’s also bled for this city. In July of 2017, T.J. experienced a heartbreaking loss. His younger brother Dion was shot and killed inside his own West Baltimore home. When T.J. speaks about trauma, it’s not a buzzword. It’s nothing new, because he’s been talking for years about needing to address the trauma facing our families. He understands it because he lived it. But he also transformed tragedy into purpose; a purpose he hopes can touch the countless victims of gun violence in Baltimore.

Since his loss, he has become involved with organizations that help those left behind after a tragedy – including MOMS (Moms of Murdered Sons), Moms Demand Action, and Tears of a Mother’s Cry. He’s an advocate for those in despair, an advocate for those looking for justice and, most importantly, an advocate for hope, change.

T.J. isn’t a politician – he’s one of us.

T.J.’s experiences and reputation for authenticity leave him in a position to govern from a place of empathy, trust, and understanding. He is uniquely qualified to address the violence in Baltimore, having seen it as both an officer, and as a grieving brother. His strategies are community based and outcome-focused while prioritizing transparency and efficiency. Through collaborative efforts in health and human services, social services, education, training, and economic development, T.J. will not only address the immediate priorities, but also the long-term, systemic factors – like trauma, addiction, financial hardship, and malnourishment – that contribute to an environment conducive to crime.

With his life and career spanning the region, he has served under eight police chiefs/commissioners and six mayors/county executives. T.J. has seen the kind of solutions that have worked in other parts of the state and it’s given him an outside-the-box, collaborative perspective to solving problems. There are lessons to be learned from others and we should ask for help when we need it. That’s why the ability to build a regional coalition is vital to any possible long-term solutions.

Through honest communication with the public, a targeted and outcome-based approach, and a system of transparency and accountability, T.J. will be the kind of mayor we can be proud of. One who changes the culture of corruption and once and for all, addresses the chronic woes facing Baltimore City.

He needs your help.

T.J.’s story and impact have also garnered positive national attention. In July of 2018, The Atlantic magazine published a story on some of those trials and triumphs he has endured.

In his personal time, T.J. enjoys sports, fishing, cooking, and gardening, but his most important role in life is father to his young son.

T.J. was accepted to and attended the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) for two years before finishing high school at Woodlawn Senior High School. He later attended the Community College of Baltimore County. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in management from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree in strategic communications from Washington State University. A law enforcement professional for twenty years, T.J. began his career as a sworn officer and later commander with the Anne Arundel County (MD) Police Department, working in police and community units. He made it a priority throughout his daily job to truly connect with the neighborhoods and set an example of the type of police officers Anne Arundel County needed. He later worked for the Baltimore Police Department as Chief of Communications before leaving to work for the Baltimore County Executive.