Justin Wilson, after taking the oath of office as Alexandria's new mayor.
“…we can be bold without pushing aside the voices of dissent.” —Mayor Justin Wilson
The 16 members of the City Council and School Board, who together exercise local legislative authority, began their terms with the New Year.
The new council, including three incumbents and four freshmen, all Democrats, took their oaths of office at an installation ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
“We have really, really big things ahead of this council and ahead of this community,” including major infrastructure investments, said Mayor Justin Wilson. He outlined three principles that he hopes will guide the new council’s decision-making:
- First, growth that benefits everybody. “Conflict about growth and development is really the lifeblood of controversy in local government. For us in Alexandria, this is not really a choice about whether or we grow or not. … The question for us is whether we can chart a path of inclusive growth.”
- Second, economic sustainability. “We must build an economy in Alexandria that can provide for the services that our residents expect and demand. … A development decision is also a decision about public safety, … schools, … human services.”
- Third, bold experimentation. “We don’t chart the course of inclusive growth without trying things differently. We don’t re-calibrate an economy that’s been predicated on a steady growth of federal spending that is not occurring anymore without trying things a little differently …. And we certainly don’t narrow the gap of achievement that our children experience in this city without shaking things up a little bit. But at the same time, we can be bold without pushing aside the voices of dissent. We have to be able to agree and disagree with a smile on our face.”
“We must strive to make sure that our board and commissions reflect our population with respect to race, gender and age, because policy affects different groups in different ways and all voices must be heard,” said freshman Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker.
“It is simply a wish list, without the proper funding,” said freshman Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein. He says Alexandria needs to “make itself more attractive to do business.” At the same time, he gave a nod to labor, calling the unionization of local bus drivers a “victory.”
“A lot of the issues we’re facing are regional in nature. … I’m looking forward to, not only representing Alexandria, but making sure we have a strong voice on a lot of these regional commissions that we have,” said freshman Councilman Canek Aguirre.
The new council approved their appointments to 42 committees, boards and commissions, both local and regional, which decide or influence policy and funding decisions. Some of the more significant appointments include incumbent Councilman John Chapman to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors; Wilson and incumbent Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors; Aguirre and Seifeldein to the Council of Governments’ Regional Transportation Planning Board; Wilson and Bennett-Parker to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority; and Aguirre and Bennett-Parker to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
The new School Board, including four incumbents and five freshmen, who serve as independents, took their oaths of office at an installation ceremony on Monday, Jan. 7.
They unanimously elected as their chair School Board Member Cindy Anderson. They elected as their vice chair School Board Member Veronica Nolan, over School Board Member Michelle Rief’s lone dissent. Rief said later that she remained concerned about Nolan’s late reporting in 2018 of campaign contributions from 2015.
The School Board has not yet made its committee assignments.
For more information or to contact elected officials using online forms, visit www.alexandriava.gov/Council and www.acps.k12.va.us/domain/852.