By Harry Lichtman
Shelly Hettleman has long had an interest in politics, and she’s come far since running for student government in grade school.
Hettleman, 56, represents District 11 in the Maryland state senate as a member of the Democratic Party. She serves on the Judicial Proceedings Committee and the Joint Committee on the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area, among others. Gov. Larry Hogan appointed her to the state senate position, which she began on Feb. 3, 2020. Prior to her role in the state senate, Hettleman served in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Hettleman and her husband Jeffrey belong to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, where she has served on the board in the past. They have two grown children, Jonathan, 28, a lawyer who is getting married in the fall, and Rachel, 25, a social worker at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Transgender Health.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pretty involved in politics, both on the policy side and the campaign politics side,” Hettleman said.
Hettleman was born in Houston and lived in three different places before moving to the Baltimore area just before turning 7 years old. She attended Pikesville Junior High School (now Pikesville Middle School) and Pikesville High School, where she was president of the Student Government Association. She attended Northwestern University for her bachelor’s in political science and campaigned for Paul Simon when he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
“I found that being involved in government, helping to make policy and helping to have government be responsive to citizens, is a way to make life better for people,” Hettleman said.
After living in Washington, D.C., for a short period of time, she returned to Baltimore City, where she lived both downtown and in the Mt. Washington area. She eventually moved to Pikesville.
Hettleman is active in the Jewish community. She was the first director of CHANA, an organization that supports people experiencing domestic abuse, and has worked for other social service programs, such as House of Ruth and Jewish Family Services (now Jewish Community Services). She helped start Weaving Women’s Words: Baltimore Stories for the Jewish Women’s Archive and worked for The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council.
“I got to know the system through helping to represent it in Annapolis for a year and a half working with the BJC and our coalition partners,” she said.
Hettleman has also been part of a Jewish women’s study group for more than 20 years with eight other Baltimore-area Jewish women.
Nowadays, Hettleman is on the board of Na’aleh: The Hub for Leadership Learning, an agency of The Associated focused on growing the leadership skills of the staff of Jewish agencies across Baltimore. “I’m doing a little work with the planning department at the federation as a volunteer in one of their committees,” Hettleman said.
As the pandemic slows down and life returns to normal, one thing Hettleman is looking forward to is in-person services at Chizuk Amuno.
“I haven’t gotten into the virtual services so much,” she said. “I’d much rather go in person, so I do miss being there in person, and I know that they’re going in a limited fashion back, so I look forward to being able to do that safely soon.”
Harry Lichtman is a freelance writer.