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Bill and Isabel

Top Newsmakers

Throughout this issue, Alexandria's elected officials have given citizens their view of the top five events of 2003. For the Gazette staff, however, the top stories were clearly Bill and Isabel.

The Bill would, of course, be Alexandria's mayor William D. "Bill‰" Euille. In March, 2002, when he announced that he would run for mayor, he became the first African-American candidate for that office.

"While I understand the significance of this fact and am proud to be the first African-American to run for mayor, I am running to be the mayor of the entire city, black, white, Hispanic, the mayor of 'One Alexandria,'" he said at the time of his announcement. And 'One Alexandria' became the theme of his campaign.

Euille was elected by a large margin over another African-American candidate, Republican Bill Cleveland, and a white Independent candidate, Townsend A. "Van" Van Fleet.

"He was elected because he had a large Democratic base of all races," said Rod Kuckro, a long-time analyst of Alexandria politics and the host of Comcast's Alexandria Forum.

But the historic marker is significant. "It is definitely one of the top stories of the year," said US Representative James P. Moran (D-8). "Bill Euille is the first African-American to be elected mayor of the city and he was born and grew up here."

AND WHAT HAS Euille learned in his six months in office? "Because I have served on City Council, I knew most things about the running of the city, so none of the operational kinds of things have come as a surprise," he said. "However, I did underestimate the amount of time that this job takes. While we serve as part-time elected officials, I spend at least 50 to 60 hours a week on my duties as mayor. I knew it took a lot of time but not even I realized just how much.

"I meet with citizens about various issues, give speeches and preside over or just attend events throughout the city. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a move to make the job a full-time position in the next five to ten years," he said.

During his time in office, he has seen a hurricane come to town and has watched the investigations into two high profile murders unfold. While arrests have been made in the murder of 16-year-old Schuyler Jones, there are still two trials pending in that case this year. And the murder of Nancy Dunning, the wife of sheriff James Dunning, has yet to be solved.

"Despite the two murders and Isabel, it's been a good six months and I think it will be a good year for the city," Euille said.

ISABEL SWEPT through in September and was the climax of a year of weather-related trauma for the city. The problems began in February when heavy snow was washed away by heavier rains. "There was actually more flooding then than as a result of Isabel," said Richard Baier, the director of the department of Transportation and Environmental Services.

However, businesses, particularly small businesses were hit hard by Isabel. Thanks to the intervention of the Small Business Administration and the work of the Small Business Development Center, most businesses have re-opened and are hoping for better times in 2004.