Zeneta Everhart, a single mother whose son was a victim of the 2022 Tops Friendly Market shooting, achieved a significant victory in the Buffalo common council election. She secured an outstanding 90.8% of the vote in her home community of Masten, located in Buffalo, New York. Masten is predominantly Black and a low-income district within the city.
Following her swearing-in on 1 January 2024, Everhart will serve as one of nine council-members on the Buffalo common council, representing the nine municipal districts of the city.
The magnitude of her triumph caught her off guard.
Everhart shared, “Even on election night, we were still out in the streets talking to people, knocking on doors. We were still going to the polling locations and handing out information.” She expressed surprise as the numbers rolled in, mentioning how she won an overwhelming 88% of the early votes. “Listen, I was so shocked! I was like 88%?”
As the polls closed, it became evident: Zeneta Everhart, a high school dropout and single mother, would become the next city councilor for her home neighborhood.
She watched the election returns at home, surrounded by family, and grateful for the presence of her son Zaire Goodman. Goodman, who is still recovering from the traumatic shooting, expressed his elation at his mother’s victory, declaring, “I knew you were going to win, Mom!”
Speaking to the Guardian, Goodman emphasized his pride in his mother’s achievements. “She just wants what’s best for me and the world,” he said. “She likes to fix problems for people and she doesn’t stop until she finds a way.”
The shooting at Tops Friendly Market inspired Everhart to pursue public office and became pivotal to her resounding win. She attributes her success, in part, to her unconventional approach as a politician, stating, “People see me as a real human. They don’t see me as a politician. They see themselves in me.”
Having dropped out of high school, Everhart obtained her GED and eventually earned two college degrees. Her career path included work as a journalist and in politics for New York state senator Tim Kennedy.
However, the tragic events of 14 May 2022 shook her world when a white supremacist attacked the neighborhood supermarket where her son worked, resulting in the loss of 10 lives and leaving Goodman wounded. “The bullet went in…But it missed every major artery, every organ, everything,” she recounted, praising the medical team for saving her son’s life.
After the shooting, Everhart became an outspoken advocate, addressing both the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting and the pervasive issue of gun violence in her community. She emphasized, “Mass shootings are awful, and they’re traumatizing and they destroy communities. But also, we have day-to-day gun violence here on the east side of Buffalo.”
Everhart’s decision to run for political office stemmed from her desire to advocate for her son. However, she was mindful of her son’s boundaries, ensuring that he had a say in how their story was shared. “I made sure that he had decision powers on…What are we saying? Are you going to say something? What pictures are we going to use?”
At her campaign announcement in February, Goodman introduced his mom and played a pivotal role in her campaign.
Reflecting on her journey, Everhart articulated, “I turned a tragedy, an awful, awful tragedy into something good. And I did that because of Zaire. You have to do something so that he doesn’t lose hope in life because we don’t know the effects of that trauma, what that’s going to be on Zaire right now. He’s still going to doctors and he’s still going to therapy and all these things. I just wanted to give him hope in the middle of his storm.”
Undeterred by her remarkable win, Everhart is already diving into the tasks ahead, focusing on hiring staff and planning for the upcoming year. “I know how to access what I need to get done in my community. And so I really homed in on that plan…[and] now it’s like, I got to hire people and get them ready to go. January 1, I get sworn in and yeah, we’re ready,” she declared.