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Sheila Dixon ( 1953 - )  Category ( Politicians ) [suggest a correction]

Crime has always been a linchpin issue in Sheila Dixon's various political campaigns. In 2009, however, that issue turned personal.

In January of 2009, Dixon -- mayor of Baltimore since 2007 -- was indicted on charges of perjury, theft and general misconduct, some of it relating to the alleged misappropriation of gift cards for the needy. On Dec. 1, she was found guilty on one misdemeanor count of fraudulent misappropriation, which left her still facing a 2010 perjury trial and the possibility of being forced out of office.

In her post-verdict statement, Dixon said: "Today, I thank God for the strength He has given me. I want to thank my family for their undying support, and all of my staff, supporters, and friends for the countless prayers and encouraging words. Thank you for standing by me.

"The jury's verdict today does not impact my responsibility to continue serving and I remain focused on keeping Baltimore on course in these trying economic times."

Nevertheless, the verdict was another public relations blow to her city, already tarred by its high murder rate in recent years (the popular TV show "the Wire" is Baltimore-based). Even Jay Leno aimed a kick in Dixon's direction.

"The mayor took a $500 Best Buy card and $500 Target gift card -- took the money from the poor -- and spent it on herself," Leno told his nighttime audience. "She said it was an honest mistake: She said she just thought it was a bribe. She didn't know."

A graduate of Towson State University with a post-grad degree from Johns Hopkins, Dixon was born (Dec. 27, 1953) and raised in Baltimore. She began her career as a kindergareten and Head Start teacher, then took a job with the Maryland State Department of Business and Economic Development. In 1987, Dixon was elected to Baltimore City Council, in 1999 she ascended to president of that body.

At a council redistricting meeting in March 1991, Dixon waved a shoe at her white colleagues and said, "You've been running things for the last 20 years; now the shoe is on the other foot."

In 2007, when Martin O'Malley stepped down as mayor to become governor of Maryland, Dixon was appointed to serve out the remaining year of his term. She then ran as a Democrat that November and defeated seven rivals in the primary and Republican Elbert Henderson in the general election.

Early in her stint as Baltimore's first female mayor, Dixon was able to point to a dramatically decreased murder rate. The 234 homicides in thr city by the end of 2008 represented a 17 percent reduction over 2007.

Dixon also made a citywide cleanup campaign a priority and imposed a smoking ban for all public venues.

Nationally, she may not be the best-known member of her extended family. Nephew Juan was a star on the University of Maryland basketball team that won the national championship in 2002 and played professionally in the NBA and in Greece.

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