Del. David Englin (D-45) has experience representing Alexandrians from the citys east side in Virginias General Assembly three-and-a-half years worth. But to the policymaker from Del Ray, experience alone is not reason enough to wrestle with laws affecting not only Virginians with a six-mile commute to Washington, but those whose homes fringe the borders of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Experience is always an important factor, but its just one factor, Englin said. I have always believed that more important than experience is a persons vision and ideas and the kinds of policies that they want to fight for on behalf of their constituency.
Englins district comprises Alexandrias east side and portions of Arlington and Fairfax. He hopes to defeat Republican opponent Vicki Vasques in the November election to continue representing the district.
Public service is not a career for Englin, but a life. He is quick to make the distinction.
Molded by his mother, who raised him and his younger brother on a military base in England after his father left them when he was two, Englin grew up seeing only public service as the norm, whether it was his mothers military service, her special education teaching or his friends parents on the base who gave their very life for public service.
Those early examples influenced Englins later choices, when he graduated from the Air Force Academy and later from the Kennedy School of Government where he earned a masters degree in public policy. After being deployed in the Balkans, he came to Alexandria where he became involved in the Del Ray Citizens Association and was a precinct captain for the Alexandria Democratic Committee.
Englin punctuates his array of goals with creating strong public education, governmental attention to the environment (to create a clean, healthy environment and invest in green jobs to lead the way for the green economy of the future), legalizing same-sex marriage and helping lower class residents achieve social mobility.[My constituents] believe in social justice and the idea that all boats rise together and that we ought to measure our economic success not by how well a persons portfolio is doing on Wall Street, but how well the average person the poor and middle class people that are working hard day in and day out are able to participate in the economy, Englin said. These are the values of the 45th District that I want to continue fighting for.
Vasques has made education a major focus of her campaign, but Englin thinks voters are more in line with his beliefs and values than his opponents. He points to Vasques tenure as a precinct captain under the Alexandria Republican City Committee, where he believes she worked against President Barack Obama, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Gov. Tim Kaine (D), as essentially working against the people she hopes to represent.
While he credited Vasques for her very credible work in government under various presidential administrations, I think that my background much more clearly reflects the values and priorities of a progressive district, he said.
As a member of the governors Poverty Reduction Task Force, part of Englins agenda is to normalize programs like the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless throughout the state. The organization provides support for residents in poverty but carries an 18-month time limit to allow individuals and families to become self-sufficient while also contributing to the local economy.
Money has been allotted for somewhat similar programs through the stimulus package and how that plays out will likely influence social mobility among the poor and homeless populations.
The right thing to do might be to wait and see how this program funded by stimulus dollars is working and piggy back off of that, Englin said. Because were not trying to duplicate programs; were trying to have an effective system in place.
In the context of Alexandria, Englin sees first hand the citys economic diversity in areas of Old Town, where low-income residents live alongside wealthy residents. He says his approach to understanding his constituents needs and ideals includes going door to door in such neighborhoods in a campaign season or out of it, to compile as complete a picture as possible of who he represents in Richmond.
They know me because I sit on their couches with their families, Englin said.
He keeps Alexandria in the forefront when working on passing state policies, because Its very easy for people in other parts of the state to short-change Northern Virginia and say, Well, you got all this money, you can take care of your own problems.
But poverty is defined differently in different pockets of the state, so Englin lobbies for data-driven approaches that take into account individual communities. A salary of $30,000 for a family in southwest Virginia goes further than in Alexandria, where a high cost of living puts families with the same income in danger of poverty.
Good data drives good policy and right now the data is cookie cutter across the whole state, he said.
Most recently, Englin says he is proud of being an original sponsor of the law that will prohibit smoking in restaurants across the state once it goes into effect December 1. He saw it as a health issue for the entire state, but also as an economic one, locally.
While its a statewide thing, the reason that its important for Alexandria is because were trying to stay competitive with Maryland and the District of Columbia, Englin said. A lot of businesses didnt feel like they were in a position to just go smoke-free on their own, but they wanted to go smoke-free both for the health of their own employees and for competitiveness. We have people from Alexandria going into the District to eat because they dont want to be surrounded by smoke.
He also gains perspective on issues facing small businesses, which he calls the fabric of our community, from someone closer to him than most constituents: His wife Shayna. She is a small business owner, making Englin aware of the citys interaction with locally owned stores, restaurants and companies.
We experience first hand some of the bureaucratic challenges that small business owners in Alexandria complain about at City Hall, Englin said. And I know that City Council is trying to improve things but its hard. It gives me good perspective on issues relating to small businesses.
Englin says he enjoys wrangling with bill language and his colleagues to reach compromises and see ideas become laws over often long processes. He is equally disappointed when his work appears fruitless at least tangibly and a bill he supports is not passed. He supports same-sex marriage, for instance, which was denied by an amendment to the constitution. But Englin sees the times changing, and says he has gained ground, however little, on the debate.
It took Thomas Jefferson seven years to get the Statute of Religious Freedom through the Virginia General Assembly, he said. Im not Thomas Jefferson and Ive only been in office for three and-a half-years at this point, so give me some time. But Im not willing to let that issue go away.
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