OPINION: Councilwoman Alicia Hughes: Personal life does not inform public service


For near three years, I’ve been railed against on blogs and in the press. I write today, admitting substantial imperfection, but out of respect for supporters and fellow citizens who deserve to hear from me.

The great irony of all accounts written is despite the largesse of my imperfections, I’ve been more sinned against than sinning. Though I constantly strive to do and be better, I’ve never claimed sainthood in my private life. I fall more in line with the least among us, even being law-educated, and notably am the poorest member of council. Yes. I know from personal experience what it’s like to lose a home, to get a speeding ticket, to be unemployed and underemployed, to receive eviction notices and be sued, too.

Yes, I’d rather be sued and settle a debt before giving a usurious payment inconsistent with an agreement entered for representation. So yes, thanks to a suit by Alexandria Democratic Committee Counsel Gerry Hebert civilly and requesting a criminal probe because I was elected in 2009 over a Democrat, I was handed a legal bill for $25,000 when I’d agreed to representation not to exceed $6,000. I settled the debt for what I’d agreed to plus what it would have cost to defend myself — not $25,000.

I have done the same with a landlord tenant dispute that dates back to May 2009 and been sued countless times because I refused to bend to numbers I knew were wrong and have waited through the change in three property managers to get the numbers right. I encouraged the most recent suit because I wanted a judgment in my favor to put the matter to bed for once and for all. All is clear now and settled on terms favorable to me. Despite media reports, there is no judgment against me giving rise to an eviction and I remain a resident of the same place.

I’ve gotten used to being sued. What I don’t appreciate and do well is lose them. And I have won every Democratic attack launched against me.

There was a time when I was embarrassed by the realities that are part of my private life; a time where I was embarrassed to be a public servant because of my own humanness, circumstances and imperfections. I am not anymore. I am glad that I’ve refused to be bullied in private because I am a public figure. I am, however, embarrassed for all of Alexandria because of the vitriolic personal attacks by people throwing stones from glass houses with skeletons that make my circumstances look like a pony ride. They continue, in the name of partisan politicking and sometimes even, under the guise of responsible journalism. This is not the Alexandria way and I hope that responsible Alexandrians will repudiate the same.

God forbid we should let a debate on issues affecting our everyday lives and having an economic impact on about 142,000 people get in the way of mud slinging against Alicia Hughes. I stand on my record of service and the public deserves, in the absence of mud slinging, to allow others to do the same.

What folks won’t tell you is I was not a member of the city council that brought you BRAC, that voted to raise real taxes during one of the greatest recessions in modern history in May 2009, to knock down hundreds of units of public housing, replacing them with expensive townhomes around the Charles Houston Recreation Center while purportedly advocating for real affordable housing. I’m not the one who voted to change municipal elections despite strong public opposition. Five people to which this can all be attributed are running for positions on the Democratic ticket in November 2012. And three of these five most recently voted to approve the Waterfront plan and accompanying text amendment in the face of great public opposition. Let them stand on their records rather than sit quietly on the sidelines while partisan hacks railroad another public servant to gain partisan advantage.

Attempt to paint me bad for personal misfortune and choice, but paint prudent as a steward of public resources and worthy of public trust, because that’s what I’ve proven when: I voted against approval of a budget in May 2010 that unnecessarily raised taxes; supported a budget that once backing out a 2.2 cents commercial add-on tax, effectively reduced the tax rate in May 2011; voted to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods while supporting strategic development to balance our commercial-residential tax base; voted against a Waterfront Small Area plan and the accompanying text amendment that I believe is not self-sustaining, creates more density at once that I am comfortable with and permits the use of eminent domain as a mechanism for capturing the foot of King Street; stood with residents against development in Arlandria due to concerns over affordable housing proffers and my belief that we had not effectively heard the voices of the least among us; and questioned budget line items that exceed $30 million dollars and contained hidden consultant costs that have come to aid in more transparent government; at the state level, recommended the elimination or reduction of local aid to the state practices that have collectively cost local governments $60 million annually but been cut back by $15 million this year and $20 million next year through work done on the Virginia Task Force on Local Government Mandates Review while being credited with work that eliminates more than 30 state mandates on local government in one legislative session as compared with the repeal of less than 5 in the last 20 years, saving government millions annually; and being credited, as part of the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring with bringing forward recommendations that resulted in the passage of 20 bills that improve government efficiency in 2011 and on track to do the same again in 2012 .

This is the record that I stand on in the past 2 ½ years as an elected and appointed public servant. No, I’ve not been busy updating the city’s website and LinkedIn to tell you of my appointments or about my professional life. Rather than chasing my tail and inflaming irrational behavior that has persisted in the past and proven harassing to those whom I know and have worked, I’m instead busy doing that which I was elected to do, serve.

Whether I am a lawyer, a former Miss Black USA, an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow, A University of Virginia Sorensen Institute Fellow or anything else for that matter has nothing to do with why I was elected. I reserve rallies of that kind of minutia for children who sit on the sidelines and personally enjoy neither victory nor defeat while throwing stones, because I’ve got a job to do.

My name is Alicia Hughes. I am an elected member of the Alexandria City Council and I approved this message.



  1. Dear Councilwoman Hughes,

    In response to your most recent Opinion piece and the accompanying piece regarding your most recent legal troubles, I would like to offer the opinion of a long time Alexandria resident and a not so actively engaged civics proponent.

    I agree that you, being a Republican of sorts and a very open Independent, have received a considerable amount of arm chair attacks on your character that do not tend to acknowledge your service on the City Council. But with that understanding, I propose a question: As a voluntary public figure is it not appropriate for your constituency to question what they deem to be moral and ethical lapses on your part?

    When considering an individual for election to public office, it is the voters responsibility to determine their allegiances based on two things, your issues and your character. You were elected to office in part because of your issues and, unfortunately, in part because of the character Alexandrians thought you represented.

    I for one can agree that of the many opportunities you’ve had to make an impact, not every decision has been wrong but, since your election to office, your character has proven to be one of deceit.

    In the final passage of your opinion to the Alexandria times, you’re quoted as saying:

    “Whether I am a lawyer, a former Miss Black USA, an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow, A University of Virginia Sorensen Institute Fellow or anything else for that matter has nothing to do with why I was elected. I reserve rallies of that kind of minutia for children who sit on the sidelines and personally enjoy neither victory nor defeat while throwing stones, because I’ve got a job to do.”

    I can appreciate that. I really can however, is it not of great importance that the people who you represent, that the voters of Alexandria, that the individuals who trusted you know the truth? That they make an electoral decision in 2012 based on the truth?

    While I am typically the first person to offer the benefit of the doubt, I believe it is your moral and ethical responsibility to once and for all clear the air and explain these discrepancies to the public.

    It must be known:

    You are not a barred lawyer
    You are not a Miss Black USA (in fact the competition was suspended during your supposed “reign”)
    You are not and have never been a Rodel Fellow
    You have been sued for fiscal malfeasance approximately 11 times
    Your separation from DBI was on bad terms
    Your own legal team has sued you for lack of payment

    I’m sorry to, as it may seem, jump on the bandwagon but trust in our elected officials is key to the morale of our populous and, I hope you would be the first to agree, you cannot be trusted. You have, time and time again, fled from your issues, remained silent in light of your lies and, have refused to admit to your mistakes.

    Councilwoman Hughes, I for one can appreciate your public service; it is selfless and honorable to hold such an office but, you are not the woman we were told you were. You are not the role model to women like myself or my daughters, you are in fact a problem this city has been dealing with for too many years.

    Susan Holmstead-Jenkins
    Old Town Alexandria

  2. Alicia Hughes asked the voters of Alexandria to elect her based on a pack of lies, and now she wants us to re-elect her based on even more lies. Note that the lie about being an Aspen Institute Rodel Scholar occurred only recently when she added it to her LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is basically a public resume. Councilwoman Hughes wants us to judge her on her record as a member of city council, yet the lie about the Rodel Scholar award occurred after the election and after she was sworn in to office and during the very period she wants us to examine. She claims that all of these falsehoods were not why she was elected, but in fact, the people of Alexandria were duped. They thought they were voting for a distinguished member of the bar who also happend to have won a beauty pageant, among other things. Neither was true. Now she wants us to vote for her again even though she continues to lie while a sitting member of council. On top of everything else, except for the lie about being an attorney, which is illegal, the other lies are relatively inconsequential and might matter only to a potential employer, which begs the question of why she lies about such things at all. Her former attorney, State Senator Jill Vogel, really was an Aspen Institute Rodel Scholar in 2011. So, after Vogel sued Hughes for unpaid legal fees, Hughes stole Ms. Vogel’s rightfully earned claim to honor. Such behavior seems sociopathic to me, but I’m no psychiatrist.

    I also have a hard time believing that a lawyer as competent as Jill Vogel would ever have signed an agreement to limit her fees to $6,000. If Ms. Hughes want us to believe that, then she should show us the signed fee agreement. I also wonder who paid her back rent and fees, or, if Ms. Hughes was able to pay it all along, why didn’t she? If Alicia Hughes wants our respect, she will have to prove that every word she has said to us and every item posted on her public resume is true. I doubt very much that she can do that.

  3. Notice that in her op ed here, Hughes does not actually described any postiive legislation that she either proposed or voted for. All she does is list issues that occurred before her time on council and state that she is not too blame. So…show us the record. From what I have witnessed, Hughes is frequently late to council meetings or absent. Having served with Hughes on a local advisory board prior to her election, I can personally attest that she was almost always late to meetings and missed quite a few as well. She showed up late for non-meeting events as well, and often left early, after she managed to be photographed. The real work was left to the rest of the board. What are these 20 bills that improve government efficiency that Mr. Losiewics points to? Show me something I can believe in, and I’ll rethink my opinion of Ms. Hughes.

  4. Since my election to City Council in May 2009, the City Council has had 82 meetings. Both the Councilman Smedberg and I have missed six (6) meetings, giving us an attendance rate of 93%. The Vice Mayor and Councilman Krupicka have missed two (2) meetings, giving them an attendance rate of 98%.

    Based purely on memory, I know that I missed a council meeting in June 2010 to due to travel to Australia as part of a delegation from the U.S. comprised of elected and civic leaders with the American Council on Young Political Leaders completing a foreign exchange and interacting with elected Australian leaders. Notably, the trip was not funded by Alexandria taxpayer dollars. The August 2010 meeting, which both Councilman Smedberg and I missed, was a special meeting called over summer break that lasted 10 minutes that was convened on very short notice for the express purpose of affirming the City Manager’s Declaration of Local Emergency on Thursday, August 5, 2010 in Response to Damage from the Major Storm. And please excuse me for having to bury an aunt out of town during another absence or for otherwise being unwell.

    With regard to the Social Services Advisory Board to which both I and Gail Gordon were both appointed, notably, I was appointed in 2008 and Ms. Gordon was appointed in April 2009. Notably, our appointments only permitted an overlap in scope for three (3) meetings: her inaugural meeting on April 20, 2009; May 18, 2009; and June 15, 2009. Effective July 1, 2009, I became a sworn member of the Alexandria City Council. Both Gail and I were present for the three noted meetings, which I imagine gave her remarkable insight to my lack of contribution and substantial absenteeism. That’s what she claims, given I attended 100% of the meetings that she did.

    Notably I had, prior to her joining the board, insisted that we take a foster tuition initiative live to engage more than 100 other local social service boards around the state to learn of how they cared for and educated, post-secondary, foster children prior in order to strengthen our voice when trying to galvanize support for a legislative initiative to accomplish the same at the state level.

    By the time Ms. Gordon arrived on the scene in April 2009 for her first meeting, that discussion, of which I was an active participant and key board contributor, having provided the preliminary draft letter language to the other boards and completing the mail merge of the letters, was part of the meeting along with an analysis of results that had started to trickle in. Moreover in May’s meeting, the same initiative was discussed, along with a reception for VOICES, a non-profit organization that had done work in the same arena and I advised of a need to get things in order to present to our state legislative delegation in hopes that legislation to make our initiative a success could be presented for inclusion in the city’s legislative package. Unfortunately, our legislative delegation refused to carry legislation to Richmond per our request. I was an active part of that discussion and the same resulted in the formation of a subcommittee to dedicate additional time and resources to studying the issue. I attended my last SSAB meeting as a member on June 25, 2009, because my July 1 city council installation precluded my continued service on the SSAB.

    It is easy to make allegations that lack factual support and I have not routinely and do not plan to moving forward address all such allegations. However, when speaking to my attendance record and service specifically in this City, most especially when tending an assault on the same based upon hyperbole, it’s good to have the facts. Fortunately enough, there are minutes to confirm what is written here.

    With regard to all else, I will not try to outsmart, out-write, out-post or manipulate the closed mind of Gail Gordon, the Co-chair of Volunteer Outreach for the Alexandria Democratic Committee, a person appearing more vitriolic and partisan than human with her posts wherever she sees my name. And at this juncture and in this and other similar fora, I will not attempt to defend myself against her personal attacks. The same are beneath me and I have no interest in or time to play in the mud. Gail, you don’t come to the table with clean hands. Just remember as I do that God is our judge, He will pay you handsomely and you will have your day. Insofar as the work of our state task force and commission, Gail, you do interesting research. I’m sure you’ll locate the websites and read the press releases and other data gathered for public view. As for showing up for photographs, given you only met me in April of 2009 and less than a month later I was a councilmember-elect and dutifully as a concurrent member of the SSAB attended a reception at the Durant Center for a VOICES function where you were busy working hard to receive guests, I’m sure you’ve got a great frame of reference. I doubt that it dawned on you that I would be booked for other engagements going on at the same time, especially given that we had a tight schedule of briefing in May and June 2009 to get up to speed before installation July 1.

    I leave you with the words of Teddy Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    I pray you peace. Be well.

  5. Councilwoman Hughes,

    You have once again neglected to comment on the issues pertaining to your personal character. Please let me know if my information is false, please defend yourself, please tell me that the allegations as described below are false:

    You are not a barred lawyer
    You are not a Miss Black USA (in fact the competition was suspended during your supposed “reign”)
    You are not and have never been a Rodel Fellow
    You have been sued for fiscal malfeasance approximately 11 times
    Your separation from DBI was on bad terms
    Your own legal team has sued you for lack of payment

    I voted for you Ms. Hughes. Please convince me that what I say above is not true. Whatever you do, please do not run from the truth. It’s not appealing and your “I am with God and God is with me” attitude does not give you a “get out of jail free card” that protects you from at least one criminal and other immoral lies perpetrated on Alexandria.