Joyce Woodson, an outspoken member of City Council, will not seek reelection.
On Tuesday, Woodson formally announced that she would not be running for another term on the Alexandria City Council. In a written statement, she announced that even though she was expected to run again, she would not be standing for election in May because she was unable to find a campaign manager.
“I was unable to identify a campaign manager to lead the team this year,” she said in the written statement. “I could not be the campaign manager and a successful candidate at the same time.”
Woodson was first elected in 2000; she was reelected in 2003. In a telephone conversation about her legacy on the City Council shortly after the announcement, Woodson cited several successes in the past six years: affordable housing, democratic participation, labor relations and support for public education.
“On affordable housing, I was out there as a voice in the wilderness sounding the alarm about this problem long before this became a major topic of conversation at tony cocktail parties,” she said. “The City Council attempted to be progressive, and I’m proud of that.”
Woodson added that the City Council recently allocated $12.8 million to purchase Gunston Hall as one example of the city’s willingness to deal with the affordable housing crisis. Although she is proud that City Hall has taken measures to deal with the crisis, she is concerned that some of the effort may be for show.
“I’m worried that the city sometimes tends to be more talk and less action,” she said, adding that the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation has been allocated millions of dollars but has yet to buy anything. “Maybe one of these days, they’ll make a purchase.”
A NATIVE OF Fort Wayne, Ind., Woodson majored in American Studies at Columbia University, graduating in 1972. She was active in the issues of that era, protesting the Vietnam War and supporting expanding civil rights.
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a good deal of unrest,” she said, adding that she wrote for an underground newspaper at Columbia. “If that paper were around today, we would probably be butchering the war in Iraq.”
In 1975, she married S. Howard Woodson, who was then working as a legislative aide to a member of Congress. They moved to Alexandria in the mid-1970s, and Woodson became active in community affairs. In 1986, Woodson earned a license to sell real estate, and she has been a Realtor ever since.
“I love the art of the deal,” she said. “And I am going to continue selling real estate in Alexandria.”
Today, her husband is the president of the Alexandria NAACP. They have two children and a house in Del Ray.
DURING HER TENURE at City Hall, Woodson championed many causes. Her background in real estate and her passion for social justice frequently combined on the issue of affordable housing. In a city where the average single-family house sells for $563,092, Woodson is concerned about the ability of low-income residents to stay in the city.
Woodson cited her influence on labor issues by invoking the 2004 Taxicab Task Force as one of her major accomplishments in City Council. As a result of City Council’s action on this matter, she says, laborers have more leverage in bargaining for adequate wages from employers.
“I was forceful in pushing that forward,” she said. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Another issue she said she was proud to have championed was pubic education. Woodson said advocates for a lower tax rate had a “mob mentality” that needed to be resisted to fully fund the city’s schools.
“It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon,” she said. “But mobs don’t always use fair play.”
Woodson said that one of City Hall’s biggest problems is that the squeaky wheel frequently gets greased — with the loudest residents often getting what they want despite the public good. Ultimately, she feels that people should be more involved in their city government.
“That’s why I worked so hard to start the Citizens Academy,” a program to help residents learn about their local government. “This is what it’s going to take to grow a new generation of citizens.”