On April 30, I celebrated my 20th anniversary of being elected to City Council representing Ward 2, and on Friday, May 13, I will celebrate my 20th anniversary of being sworn in, which makes me the longest serving current councilmember. When I finish this term I will be the longest serving councilmember in history; it’s a good time for reflection.
The first Ward 2 Councilmember was John Wilson, who took office in January 1975 and served until December 31, 1990. He was sworn in January 2, 1991 as Chairman of the Council, creating a vacancy, which had 15 candidates in the special election. I won the election with 2,926 votes, 360 more than Jim Zais. Bill Cochran and Clarene Martin each received 1,050 votes.
Sharon Pratt had just been elected Mayor and had taken office in January 1991. The finances of the city were not bleak and two weeks before my swearing in, there were three days of riots in Mt. Pleasant after a rookie police officer shot an Salvadoran man.
Things in the District went from bad to worse. Mayor Pratt, Chairman Wilson and the Council did not have a good working relationship, which meant legislation was hard-pressed to get passed. Then in 1993, Chairman Wilson hung himself in the basement on his Washington home, rocking both the political arena and citizens who had found hope in his leadership. By 1994, the District’s finances had further deteriorated and Mayor Pratt approval ratings declined drastically. The Mayor’s election in 1994 saw the return of Marion Barry as mayor. By the end of 1995, Congress imposed a Control Board, which gave Congress the power to override all financial decisions made by the mayor and city council.
They were turbulent days. The turning point came in 1996, when we saw a resurgence of life come to D.C. With Mayor Williams’ election in 1998, he joined Chairman Linda Cropp, with myself as finance and revenue chairman and chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi to lead the city in a comeback in both business and population. As I look back, I remember great challenges and great progress. Our city stands today as one of the most dynamic in the country, with strong finances and a AAA bond rating, a measure of how financially stable an institution is.
I was 37 years old, single and living in a condo in Dupont Circle when I was first elected. My mother died on Mother’s Day in 1993 and my Dad in 1996. I married Noel, my first wife, in 1994 and moved to 32nd Street in Georgetown. We got a dog in 1995 and then had triplets in 1996. We moved to P Street in Georgetown and I was reelected in five subsequent elections.
In 2003, Noel died of cancer. Kayla died in 2007, a year after getting another dog. I married Michele, the woman I am still married to, in September 2010 and am running for re-election in 2012. I just celebrated my 40th high school reunion.
Life as a city council member does not always lend itself to working eight hours a day or normalcy in the traditional sense, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. My identity as a politician and family man has defined my life. There is still much work to be done and I look forward to a great future.