Alexandria has its first African-American mayor and a new City Council that is representative of the city’s diversity.
"As many of my fellow Council members have said, we truly represent the diverse interests of this city,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg at the July 1 installation of the new mayor and City Council.
“It is encouraging to know the Alexandria community is willing to break down by electing candidates based solely on their qualifications, ideas and commitment to this city.”
The evening was full of optimistic speeches with all members of Council looking forward to getting down to the business of government.
“Being Alexandria’s mayor means much more than just being the city’s first African-American mayor,” said William D. Euille. “I am also the first mayor who knows personally the weight of poverty and the power of opportunity. I understand the needs and hopes of this city’s poorest citizens as well as I understand the goals of its wealthiest.
"I will provide the leadership to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. … Traffic, affordable housing, education, balancing the budget and quality of life will be key points of my term. … Affordable housing is a critical portion of my agenda. This city has achieved success because of the contributions of all of its citizens.
“We must continue to support the growth of our small businesses and balance the needs of our business community with those of our residential neighborhoods,” Euille said.
“There is no guarantee that all of my decisions will be popular or successful. I will make unpopular decisions; I may fail. I hope that I don’t, but the chance that I will exists. ... We will win with our successes, and we will lose with our failures. All of the decisions that we will make will affect our lives, too. My goal is to see the city continue to prosper.”
Redella S. “Del” Pepper was unanimously elected vice mayor. As the top vote-getter on Council, this was expected but not mandated by anything but tradition.
After thanking those who supported her and those who worked on her campaign, Pepper discussed her priorities for the next three years.
“One of the clearest messages from this election is that quality of life is a high priority and that citizens will fight hard for it,” she said. “The fact that there is so little land left undeveloped tells us how very carefully we must choose how we develop that land and how we redevelop other land. I have never supported a no-growth policy but have always been an advocate for appropriate growth, for wise growth, for growth that fits comfortably with our neighborhoods.
"I have always been a watchdog for neighborhoods, and that is a policy I will continue. I will continue to be an advocate for open space, parks, bike paths and will work to prevent excessive traffic and congestion.
"We must work in a serious way to encourage the use of mass transit. I will be focusing on the need for a Metro stop at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, not in Arlington. I will work hard to see that we build a new DASH facility at the foot of Roth Street, where we own land. A new facility will allow us to expand our capability so that we can operate more buses and allow for more routes to be created.”
COUNCILWOMAN Joyce Woodson is the only returning member of City Council in addition to Pepper. “I have been thinking about what I hope people will say about me when I am gone — not when I leave the room but when I leave this world,” Woodson said. “This is what I hope people will remember about Joyce Woodson. I hope that they will remember that she was an independent voice, often unpredictable, sometimes controversial and always sensitive to everyday folks.
"That she was an advocate for many of the communities who found themselves voiceless … that she fought to preserve and increase support for affordable housing in Alexandria and pushed her colleagues and the city to consider creative and fresh approaches to solving one of our more pressing problems."
Councilman Rob Krupicka joked about the five feet of water in his [flooded] basement and the fact that the recent rains have reminded him of his childhood in Seattle.
“I’m honored to sit up here with a group of people who represent Alexandria’s values of service, compassion, fairness and thoughtfulness,” he said. “Walking throughout Alexandria and talking to neighbors reinforced for me the fact that we all want to see improvements and that the changes do not compromise our values in the process.
"Our challenge is to maintain our diversity, our environment, our history, our respect for every citizen, our small businesses, our nonprofit community and our neighborhoods.
"I keep thinking about the young people and young families that I met during the campaign who want to make Alexandria their home for the long haul. How do we create sustainable progress so that their lives may improve with each passing year? We must make sure that the choices we make today do not hinder tomorrow’s progress. I talked to family after family who want to see increased opportunities for our children. As part of this, I want to help them see the importance of parental involvement. ... The active participation of parents in our schools can change the lives of all of our children."
COUNCILMAN Andrew Macdonald spoke of his heroes and looked ahead to the next three years. “Some who usually skip local elections came out and voted for me and others because they wanted a voice, because they believe I have a passion for, and am a proven advocate for, quality of life. They want a voice on City Council. They want somebody who promises to listen, who promises to view their concerns with great respect. I intend to do all I can to serve them well.”
Finally, Ludwig Gaines also thanked everyone who worked on his campaign and spoke about the upcoming three years.
“I’m not going to talk about specific programs and issues. We have the upcoming several months to do that. Rather, I want to talk about the principles that will guide my work on Council. They are accountability, responsibility and trust. Accountability means that any politician worth their salt does what we say we are going to do. … I will work every day to protect our neighborhoods and provide clear opportunities for all our residents.
“I will strive to move the decision-making process to where our citizens are,” Gaines said. “I will strive to follow in the footsteps of great Alexandrians like Ferdinand Day and will work hard to protect the rights of all of our citizens.”
At the end of the meeting, Council adjourned for the summer. It will reconvene on the second Tuesday in September.