Planning guru Donna Fossum declares run for Alexandria City Council

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West End resident Donna Fossum, a 22-year member of the city’s planning commission, announced she will run as a Democrat for city council Monday.

The need for more West End representation on council and the city’s handling of the waterfront redevelopment and Beauregard corridor plans sprung the 63-year-old into a campaign, she said. Fossum was the lone planning commissioner to vote against the waterfront plan.

“One thing that’s become so obvious to me … we have a city that is very, very well educated and very committed to participating in civic issues,” Fossum said. “There are many parts of this city that are well organized and can mobilize but others that can’t seem to. How do you get people to come together who have very disparate views and disparate backgrounds?

“I don’t think we’ve done a great job of integrating everyone into the various [planning] processes,” she said.

Fossum’s premiere issue is land use, an issue that must be coupled with transportation, she said. As head of the Beauregard corridor stakeholder’s group she looked to bring citizens together over a controversial development plan that includes high-capacity transit.

But as a West End advocate, Fossum stressed she will not only be a mouthpiece for residents of the oft-neglected, more transient part of town, but for the entire city.

“I know this city very well. I just happen to know the West End too,” she said. “After 22 years on the planning commission there is virtually nothing I haven’t visited, read about or helped plan. One thing that really came to the forefront with me is that I really am bothered by the lack of participation from the people in the West End. Rather than complain, I thought I’d do something about it.”

Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, who lives on the west side, will not seek another term and Fossum wants to fill the void he leaves behind. Her decision is not spontaneous but comes after many civic leaders urged her to run, she said.

Fossum is an independent consultant specializing in government transparency. She has worked on the Hill and for the Rand Corporation as an advisor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is unmarried with no children.

To receive one of six nominations, Fossum faces a crowded Democratic slate: Sean Holihan, Tim Lovain, Charles Sumpter Jr., Boyd Walker and Justin Wilson, and incumbent council members Del Pepper and Paul Smedberg.

The primary is scheduled for June 12.