Reflecting on 21 Years on the Council
This month, I passed a personal milestone. On April 30, it was the 21st anniversary of my being elected to the City Council as the representative for Ward 2. May 13 was the 21st anniversary of my being sworn in as the Ward 2 Councilmember. I became the longest serving current Councilmember a year ago, and when I finish my current term, I will be the longest serving Councilmember in our history. I find this annual milestone to be a good time to stop and reflect on both our past achievements and our future goals.
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, which created a vacancy in the Ward 2 post. The special election to fill the Ward 2 Council seat had 15 candidates. I won the election with 2,926 votes, 360 more than Jim Zais. Bill Cochran and Clarene Martin each received 1,050 votes.
I came on the Council at a different time. Sharon Pratt Kelly had just been elected mayor and had taken office in January 1991. The finances of the city were not good. Two weeks before my swearing-in were the riots by the Latino community in Mt. Pleasant.
Things in the District went from bad to worse. Mayor Kelly did not have a good working relationship with Chairman Wilson and the Council. Then, in 1993, Chairman Wilson died. By 1994, the District’s finances had further deteriorated and Mayor Kelly had become very unpopular. The mayoral election in 1994 saw the return of Marion Barry as mayor. By the end of 1995, Congress had imposed a control board.
As you can see, my early days were quite turbulent. However, beginning in 1996, we saw a resurgence in our city. With Mayor Tony Williams’s election in 1998, he joined Chairman Linda Cropp, me, as Finance and Revenue Chairman, and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi to lead our city’s comeback. 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.
I hope we continue to build on these past achievements. Our financial picture is good, but we must continue to aggressively restrain our spending and practice fiscal discipline, as we are always just one bad budget away from the possible return of a control board. A balanced Budget Request Act passed the Council earlier this month, and I plan to provide a full budget update after passage of the Budget Support Act in early June.
It has been quite a journey and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. There is still much work to be done, however, and I look forward to a great future representing the residents of Ward 2.