I first came here almost 40 years ago with my late husband Kennan. Like so many of us, we were transplants to Northern Virginia. We had just finished 2 1/2 years in the Central African Republic teaching English for the Peace Corps and were looking for a place to settle. We found a home in Fairlington. In past 40 years, I have served our community in many ways, all with the same goal of help to make sure that people of all ages, interests, and from across the socioeconomic spectrum can live and work here to the best of their ability.
We all find our roots in basic core values. For me it is music, bicycling, my Quaker faith, the outdoors, friends, family and community. I have played classical piano since childhood and took up voice lessons in my 40’s. While I am strictly amateur, time spent at the keyboard or singing has always helped clear my head and my heart. While I am not an athlete, my late husband Kennan showed me the joy of physical exercise when we bought a tandem bike and rode over 5,700 miles together, including several Bike Virginia rides. Now I ride my own bike, and will always be grateful for that gift of cycling. Bicycling still clears my heart and my mind and keeps me feeling well. To share this passion and honor Kennan’s memory, I started a capital fund for Phoenix Bikes which helps young people learn to ride and repair bikes, but really helps them to grow up confident and connected.
My roots are Philadelphia Quaker. The Quaker peace testimony, belief that God resides within each and every person, and emphasis on meditation and reflection renews me, challenges me, and makes me a better person. This means that education, equal rights, and the support of peace are especially important to me. A favorite Quaker query for me is “How does thy life seek to end the causes of war?” I demonstrated against the war in Vietnam way back in the 70’s and I joined a few other Quakers for three years in a weekly silent peace vigil against the second War in Iraq. I taught with the Peace Corps in Africa for 2 ½ years. I’ve marched for the Equal Rights Amendment, and worked to make high educational achievement a reality for every student regardless of race, ethnic background, income level or gender preference.
Kennan’s sudden death and various health issues, including my treatment for breast cancer in 2010, have brought home to me how important friends and community are to our health and well–being. At times, I could not have survived without the practical and emotional support of my family and my community. I discovered the Washington Transplant Community because Kennan was a tissue donor. They have supported me, and I try to support their work of advocating for organ and tissue donation, which truly gives the gift of life. Over the years, family, close friends and the broader community have come to my aid again and again. I cannot thank them enough and the blessing of their love and support reinforces my call to public service so that I can give back to a community that has given so much to me.
My work on the County Board has focused on prioritizing our spending, connecting with our community, and keeping the board focused on policy level issues and allowing staff to focus on the day-to-day work that they perform so well, but which can easily consume the Board’s attention too. I also have worked to develop relationships across the region because so many of our issues cut across jurisdictional lines.
I have focused on emergency preparedness for much of my public career. Soon after 9/11, I began to lobby for better emergency alert and information systems and was instrumental in establishing an emergency radio station in Arlington and a pilot outdoor alert system in the metro area. The better prepared we are for either natural or manmade disasters, the stronger we are as a community. This led to my appointment to the Council of Governments (COG) Emergency Preparedness Council.
Another passion of mine is the connection between education and business because the forms the foundation of our economy. I am currently on the workforce taskforce of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission which is working create a regional approach to building a workforce to support the next stage of economic development. We must tap the abilities of all our work force, be they recent graduates, returning veterans or experienced worker needs a career change.
Transportation is another area where I have focused my energy, first to end development of the streetcar project on Columbia Pike because a streetcar was impractical for that location and would take resources we need for more efficient ways of moving people. I am now working hard to develop new solutions across all modes of travel. This includes transit, like bus rapid transit where people can quickly board and exit the bus with off boarding fare collection, level boarding, and multiple entrances, and buses that can control the signals at intersections to keep moving. It includes improved bicycling lanes that connect and keep bicycles separate from traffic wherever possible. Pedestrians should feel safe and comfortable. Metro needs to be restored to a level of service where riders can feel safe, comfortable and confident they will reach their destination quickly.
Finally, any decision we make as elected officials can really come down to three questions: what good, for whom, at what cost? And those decisions should fit into an overall framework that leads us to our goals for this community. Since joining the County Board in 2012, I have spoken about the need for an overall strategic plan for our work. Currently we have many departments with many important priorities, but no over all structure to help us decide which priority is most important and needs to be addressed now nor to help our public understand why we might support one priority over another. Developing such a plan and structure is important work and I am working with my Board colleagues to achieve it.
Prior to joining the County Board, I spent 15 years on the School Board, but my experience with our schools also began in 1984, when I worked as part of a community effort to build a new playground for our neighborhood school, Abingdon Elementary. My two daughters were 2 and 5 years-old at the time. I went on to be the volunteer co-coordinator for the PTA, then the ACI representative and finally the PTA President at Abingdon.
In 1992, the Arlington public school system needed to address severe crowding in our part of the County, as well as the educational needs created by a rapid influx of non-English speaking students. I was part of a group of involved parents who felt the School Board of the time was not paying attention to what we cared about: equal and high quality education across the County. My frustration with the School Board’s lack of public communication, openness and their poor decisions led me to collect petition signatures so we could have the right to elect our school board, and then to work hard to elect Mary Hynes to the School Board in 1994.
After we elected Mary Hynes to the School Board, I saw that her one vote was not enough to change things, and when no one else would run to join her on the School Board, I did. During that campaign, I saw how badly run our schools’ capital improvement program was. Despite resistance from sitting school board members and my own campaign team, I called for an outside audit of the capital improvement program. It wasn’t popular, but I knew that if we did not learn where our money was going, then there was no hope that we would get a better outcome for our students. I lost my first run for the School Board, but it was clear to everyone how right I was when the headlines in the Washington Post the next day read “$25M missing from Arlington Public School Capital Improvement Program.” People asked me to run again; I did and I won.
Once on the School Board, I played a significant role in seeing that all our schools perform well for all our students, not just some. As a candidate I called for a new school in South Arlington: Its there today, Carlyn Springs ES. I called for high quality education for all students: The achievement gap closed by about 50% during my tenure on the School Board. I worked to establish anti-bullying programs and supports for LGBT students. I supported our immigrant students and our Dreamers.
During my School Board tenure, I led many initiatives to improve our connection with the community, including bi-annual surveys, regular updates mailed to citizens. During my first term as Chair, I began open office hours for School Board members, which helps provide that crucial opportunity to personally connect with the community.
I also built networks that support schools across Virginia. I helped found Virginia CAREs (Virginia Consortium for Adequate Resources for Education) to strengthen Virginia Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding formulas to match the educational needs of our students more closely. As Vice-Chair of the consortium, I helped lead a state-wide conference to determine our positions, and lobbied for better funding; we were successful in improving the SOQ’s in a number of vital areas. I helped start the LEP (Limited English Proficient) Caucus, an ad hoc group of school board members and staff which has been a strong voice for our immigrant students advocating for reasonable testing under NCLB and for adequate support from the State to meet these students’ educational needs. Starting in 2005, Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine appointed me to the P-16 Council which advised the governor on education issues from preschool through higher education.
Campaigns & Politics
As a politics major at Mt. Holyoke, I’ve always been fascinated by the Congress and government. My first campaign was for George McGovern in 1972. I worked as a legislative aide to Congressman Lee Hamilton in the late ‘70’s. I went to the Virginia Democratic Convention in 1992 as a Paul Tsongas delegate and worked hard for him. A personal thrill for me was being selected to serve as a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and hearing then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama’s passionate call for national unity.
My involvement in local politics started when I supported Mary Hynes for the School Board, and then ran myself in the following two years. Since, I’ve worked hard for School Board, County Board, constitutional, Senate, Congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential candidates. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors and shaken as many hands campaigning for local, state, and national Democratic candidates. Over the years I have given thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, and I’ve been a consistent and continuous member of ACDC’s Roosevelt Society of recurring, monthly contributors for as long as I can remember: probably over 10 years. I will continue to support the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates with spirit, shoe leather, and, of course, money.
My political involvement has also expanded across Virginia. Women are chronically under-represented in Virginia’s government. Women compose less than 20% of the General Assembly and less than 10% of our Congressional Delegation despite being almost 51% of Virginia’s population. So, I joined with a group of like-minded women to establish Get Women Elected Now (GWEN) to encourage progressive women to run for public office. Our goal was to promote women candidates for local offices here in Northern Virginia, educate first-time candidates, and volunteer our help to get them elected. While GWEN is no longer active, I continue to work hard to support other women who are running for or serving in public office.
We face changes and challenges. Fortunately for us, this amazing County contains the talent to answer just about any challenge we face – we just need to tap our unique resources and to engage with all the people who live and work here. This means focusing our county government on providing services that work well for everyone, innovating better ways for Arlingtonians to participate in local government, and ensuring that people of all ages, interests, and from across the socioeconomic spectrum can live and work here to the best of their ability. It’s what I focus my County Board service on, and how I will continue to serve in the coming years because, truly, “we’re greater together than we are on our own…when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules.”
Experience / Leadership
Member, Arlington County Board 2012 to present; Chair, Arlington County School Board, 1999 to 2001, 2004-2005, Jan-June ’07; Member, Arlington County School Board, 1996 to 2012; Member, Council of Governments National Capitol Region Emergency Preparedness Council 2004 to present; Member, Governor’s Commonwealth Preparedness Transition Policy Committee Dec ’05- Jan ’06; Chair, Capitol Region Subcommittee, Commonwealth Preparedness Transition Policy Committee Jan ’06; Member, Governor’s P-16 Council Dec ’05 to present; Chair, Communications Workgroup of Governor’s P-16 Council, June ’07; Independent Consultant/Facilitator for career and Myers-Briggs counseling/workshops, 1984-1996; Associate Director, Mount Holyoke College Washington Internship Program, 1979-1984; Legislative Aide, Representative Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.), 1977-1979; Country Desk Assistant, Africa Region, US Peace Corps, 1976-1977; Peace Corps Volunteer (English (TEFL) teacher) and Trainer, Central African Republic, 1973-1975
Leadership Positions – Leadership Team Member, VSBA Limited English Proficient Caucus, 2003 to present; Vice-Chair, Virginia Consortium for Adequate Resources for Education, 2000 to 2005; Vice-President Fairlington Civic Association, 1994-95; Vice-President County Council of PTAs, 1993-1995; Vice-Chair, Advisory Council on Instruction, 1994; Assistant Editor, County Councilor Newsletter, 1994; County Council Representative Parent Involvement Committee, 1994; President, Abingdon PTA, 1990-1992; Career Counselor, Center for Women and Families, Alexandria, 1987-1991; Volunteer Co-coordinator, Abingdon PTA, 1985-1988.
Political – State Advisor, Edwards for President Campaign, ’04; Founder/Steering Cttee Member, GWEN, Get Women Elected Now, ’07 to present; Participant/Permit Obtainer, weekly Silent Vigil for Peace ’02 to present; Vice-Chair, LEAD (Local Elected Association of Democrats) ’04; Delegate, National Democratic Convention, 2004; Chair, Get Out The Vote, Arlington Democratic Committee, 1995; Delegate, Virginia State Democratic Convention, 1992 & 2004; District Volunteer Co-Coordinator, Tsongas for President Campaign, 1992.
Writing – 1990 Series of articles on Myers-Briggs and Parenting published in “Welcome Home.”
Education – 1973 Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Politics with minor in Economics, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.