Essay: Lessons from a Campaign Volunteer

Essay: Lessons from a Campaign Volunteer

While volunteering with the Van Fleet campaign for Alexandria City Council, I gained valuable insight into the political campaign process. Collaborating directly with Van Fleet also gave me the opportunity to learn about him as an individual and get to know the issues he was most vehement about.

I learned that in running a campaign, you first have to have a team. Each member of the Van Fleet team were individuals who came from various backgrounds. They came together, giving their time, and contributing something different to the effort to elect Van Fleet. Furthermore, I learned that promoting yourself in the community is very important because if people don’t know about you, how are they to vote for you? Alexandria being the very diverse city that it is, you have to also appeal to a variety of demographics.

As in any community, there are many issues up for debate in Alexandria. The "Battle of the Waterfront" is a big issue, most affecting the Old Town area. A multi-year $60 million program to redevelop the city’s waterfront is proposed, and this will raise taxes for citizens as they try to fund the project. A five-story, 120-room hotel is also proposed, and nearby residents express concerns about parking and congestion issues, and the size and scale of the project, as well as its architectural design. Not only is it an issue due to the expenditure of money, but high-end development does not fit into the architectural style of historic Alexandria. Millions of dollars are being allocated on high-end development when it could be used on more important issues, such as affordable housing, which seems to be diminishing. While walking around the Del Ray area passing out campaign literature in low-income neighborhoods, a resident brought up the fact that she didn’t like that housing for low-income people was not being integrated with regular housing. This distinct separation upset her.

Many people undermine the importance of voting for City Council, but the reality is that voting for your local government is the first step to getting your voice heard within your own community; the City Council produces policy that has the most immediate impact on you. While passing out campaign literature in different areas around Alexandria, I realized that a lot of people were not yet registered to vote in the city for one reason or another. A lot had said they had just moved to Alexandria, while others just weren’t interested in voting. I believe that if you hold specific views about what should be done in your community, you should do something about it by voting for a representative.

This opportunity to participate in the Van Fleet campaign for Alexandria City Council was very enriching and it made me actually consider being involved in political endeavors in the future. I know that when I am eligible to vote, I will definitely be an active voter for City Council.