By Susan Hale Thomas (Photo/Susan Hale Thomas)
Braving streets and sidewalks glazed with ice, more than 100 residents came out to support Allison Silberberg as she announced her candidacy for mayor at Los Tios in Del Ray last weekend.
Silberberg had been the only member of city council not to announce her candidacy for reelection, causing speculation about her plans, but those close to the vice mayor said they knew she was gunning for the city’s highest elected position.
Dick Moose, a 50-year resident of the Port City, was chatting with a table of friends prior to the announcement.
“I think she’s a terrific person and I’d love to see her as mayor,” Moose said. “She has a vision for Alexandria and she’s not beholden to the developers and their lawyers. She’s an independent-minded person and thinks for herself instead of just part of a group like the existing council does.”
In her introduction, former state Sen. Patsy Ticer described Silberberg as a voice of reason and a visionary leader.
“Allison weighs all sides and listens carefully, and this is indeed a rare quality,” Ticer said. “She thinks things through, and asks the tough questions, and she tries to get the answers. … She seeks compromise where possible.”
Supporters stood shoulder to shoulder in the dining room of the restaurant in anticipation of Silberberg’s announcement. A thunder of whoops, whistles and cheers erupted when Silberberg announced her bid for mayor.
“We need to stand together, from Old Town, to the West End, to Park Fairfax and everything in between,” she said. “It’s time for us to focus on what is possible. … City Hall is not separate from the people. City Hall is the people.”
Silberberg said as mayor she would support development that is appropriate, libraries, schools, open space, affordable housing, seniors, as well as the Alexandria business community and entrepreneurship. The vice mayor said she would be taking on the city’s debt and would protect and preserve city neighborhoods and the Old Town historic district.
Eileen Cassidy Rivera, a college friend and co-chairwoman of Silberberg’s campaign, has known the vice mayor for 33 years. She described Silberberg as courageous.
“Last Saturday there was a vote by city council on a property on King Street,” Cassidy Rivera said. “It was sold as a senior issue but truthfully it was a zoning issue and Allison was the one asking the tough questions. The real vote was to rezone the property and was being spun to appear as if it were to help seniors. Allison gets in there and digs, and sometimes to the consternation of her colleagues. They don’t like it when she digs in.”
Terri and Mickey Simpson, who worked on Silberberg’s first campaign in 2012, were excited to see her enter the mayoral race.
“I was so impressed with Allison when I first met her that I thought: ‘This is a lady I can stand by and work for and help her run her campaign,’” Terri Simpson said.
Silberberg’s announcement brings the tally of Democratic mayoral candidates to three, with incumbent Mayor Bill Euille and former Mayor Kerry Donley also mounting campaigns.
On the Republican side, the local party plans to hold a party canvass to identify mayoral and council candidates. While some are considering a mayoral run, according to party chairman Chris Marsten, they are not ready to make any formal announcements.
Terri Simpson was vocal about the need for a change at City Hall.
“The thing that got me was the boat club and eminent domain,” she said. “Bill Euille is tired. When he did his first couple of campaigns he was right there talking to people. Now in his fourth term, he’s tired out.”
And when it came to former Mayor Kerry Donley making another run for the office, Mickey Simpson didn’t think he was a suitable candidate.
“Donley has been good for the city, but he’s way too pro-development for me,” he said.
The race is on. The Democratic primary is June 9.