Being on city council can be a juggling act for some

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What happens when a citizen legislature really is a part-time lawmaking body? Alexandrians may see a difference this year because, for the first time in recent memory, five members of City Council and the mayor have fulltime jobs with all except the mayor employed in the District of Columbia.

Mayor Bill Euille owns his own business, which is located in Alexandria. Since 1994, when he was first elected to Council, he has juggled the two, dedicating large chunks of time at night and during the day to city business. He spends at least one full day at City Hall each week but is available much more often than that.

I enjoy public service and public service means making sacrifices, Euille said.
Until 2006, only Councilman Paul Smedberg had a fulltime job outside the city. I never really have found it too difficult to do what I need to do for the city and for my other job. People who want to meet with me to discuss city business are very understanding about when I can and cannot schedule appointments. That usually happens early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Councilman Rob Krupicka recently took a fulltime job in Washington, D.C. Its a lot different than working part-time in Alexandria, he said. I have less flexibility and, the commute alone takes up a lot of time, he said.

Most members of Council said that they work an average of 20 hours a week on city business, double that during the budget process. The mayor spends more time because of the number of regional committees that require his attention.

Its not like we are an administrative body which handles the day-to-day running of the city, Smedberg said. We have able staff to do that.

Kerry Donley was the mayor of Alexandria from 1995 until 2003 and a member of City Council for seven years prior to that. During that time, he worked for a bank in Old Town.

Working in Old Town was certainly convenient, Donley said. It allowed me to run into City Hall for five minutes when someone needed something and I scheduled many meetings during lunch. However, the city manager form of government is defined by part-time citizen legislators and I think that working fulltime at another job helped me to understand how other Alexandrians juggle their time.

Public service is about commitment and sacrifice. I had to make tradeoffs all of the time. There were soccer games I missed and school plays I didnt see. There were also regional commitments that I would like to have done but that was impossible. For example, ideally, the mayor should represent the city on the Metro Board of Directors. That Board meets every Thursday morning and, with a fulltime job, I just couldnt make those meetings. My employer was incredibly understanding and allowed me to use my annual leave, with very little notice sometimes, when I needed to do so. Just after Sept. 11, that was particularly important, Donley said.

All in all, things may not change all that much except that Euille and Vice Mayor Redella S. Del Pepper, who is retired, will be the Council representatives at many midday events.

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