News Politics — 07 March 2009

With just hours to go before the deadline, Alicia Hughes and Rich Williamson filed to run as Independents in the May 5 City Council election broadening the race for six Council seats. Both registered as Independents and will take on six Democratic incumbents and two Republicans. Mayor Bill Euille will run unopposed.

The late addition of Hughes and Williamson expands a ballot that previously indicated a two-party race, bringing the number of candidates to 10.

Hughes, who works at the U.S. Patent and Trade Office as a pharmaceutical and biotechnology patent examiner, is a federal worker and is barred from endorsing a political party under the Hatch Act. However, she is a member of the Commonwealth Republican Womans Club. She has a juris doctor in international law, health policy and international property curriculum, and is a member of the Alexandria Social Services Advisory Board and Leadership Alexandria.

Williamson is a senior project manager at the Pentagon (requiring an Independent label) specializing in business process engineering and system architecture and grew up part-time in Old Town with his mother, he said. He has a masters degree in business administration and served as secretary of the citys Environmental Policy Commission for a year and was President of the Colonial Heights Homeowners Association on the West End.

Williamson lists pertinent issues affecting the city as traffic, taxes, pollution and keeping our commitments before we move onto new investments like massive infrastructure improvements that will not offer our citizens any additional security or services.

As a West End resident of Seminary Hill, Williamson said that side of town is one of his major concerns, calling the area underrepresented. He commented on the delicate nature of the impending development of the Landmark and Van Dorn area and the federal BRACC project coming to the Mark Center.

Its not Williamsons first attempt at public office. He ran for school board in Williamson, Tennessee, but was not elected. He said his pseudo-governmental experience on Alexandrias Environmental Policy Commission was also an impetus for throwing his hat into the crowded ring.
I saw when government doesnt work and it really was sickening, Williamson said. Thats why I only served for one year because things were not getting passed. It was an incorrect focus; we were focusing on buying up land for green space but we didnt mind that children were breathing in asphalt particles. It seemed insane.

Hughes, a fellow West End resident, said she would also focus on the West End specifically the development and dynamics of the business and residential communities among other citywide issues.

I want businesses getting comfortable doing businesses with the city and the development process and at the same time making sure that the needs and interests of the residents are put before the business community because within the community, everyone has to work together, Hughes said. And there has to be concessions made on both sides of the aisle. Business interests often clash with community interests but we want to make sure that every one understands where each other is coming from.

Both candidates said that while they will focus on the West End, all of their issues are citywide, and they will approach their campaigns in such a way. Both put an emphasis on education, too, Hughes being a former educator and Williamson having run for school board.

As Independents, neither candidates have been invited to the upcoming City Council debates yet, but both said they would actively pursue inclusion. Their non-party labels add another element to an attention-grabbing election.

When youre working within the confines of a two-party structure [being an Independent] is potentially an uphill battle on one hand, Hughes said. On the other hand it is an opportunity to bring people together from both sides of the aisle for a common cause.

I like to be an Independent because I support moderate goals, Williamson said. And, like our president, I want to actually compromise and find good solutions that make sense.

The deadline has now passed to register as a City Council candidate. The first Council forum is March 18 and may or may not include the two newest additions to the race.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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