By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Dak Hardwick, previous chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee and Chamber of Commerce, announced on Oct. 19 that he will run for the Alexandria City Council in the coming election cycle.
Hardwick is the first to file his candidacy for council for the 2018 election and is running under the campaign slogan, “Empower Alexandria.”
“Empowering Alexandria is really about the style of leadership that I bring to the table,” Hardwick said. “I believe in open and transparent and collaborative solutions and discussion, followed by action.”
During his 15 years in Alexandria, Hardwick has held several leadership roles in the community. In addition to his work with the chamber and Democratic committee, he was chair of the city’s Budget & Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, two-year president of the Cameron Station Civic Association in the West End and board president of New Hope Housing, a nonprofit agency dedicated to ending homelessness.
Hardwick said his past experience gave him a broad understanding of the direction of the city, along with its challenges and opportunities. Some of the key issues he plans to address in his campaign are public facilities, infrastructure and education.
“Those of us that are in the community believe fully that you have to have a strong educational base in order for long-term economic vitality. I want to continue to invest in our education,” he said.
Hardwick’s “day job” is at the Aerospace Industries Association in the District of Columbia, where he is assistant vice president of international affairs, working on international defense, space trade and export control reform issues.
Vice Mayor Justin Wilson said he has known Hardwick for nearly a decade and is familiar with his work in the city.
“He brings good budget experience, and I think that’s very helpful right now at this time,” Wilson said. “That’s going to be one of our biggest challenges as we promote economic sustainability over the next decade.”
Wilson also said it would be beneficial to have someone else from the West End contributing on council.
Hardwick helped to reform the way the committee presented to council while he was chair of the Budget & Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, so that budget recommendations were reaching decision-makers sooner and having a greater impact.
“That experience really gave me an opportunity to dig into the city’s budget,” Hardwick said. “I know it backwards and forwards, both on the operations side and the capital investment side. I’ve been around it for almost a full decade, and that’s what allows me to hit the ground running.”
Both Wilson and Councilor John Chapman said they were not surprised to hear that Hardwick was running for council, considering his city involvement.
Some of Hardwick’s other endeavors in the city include launching the “40 Under 40” program at the chamber, addressing veteran homelessness in Alexandria along with New Hope Housing and establishing connections at the Virginia General Assembly through the ADC.
“It’s important to have those relationships, because we are going to have to ask for sustained assistance on fulfilling key items, particularly infrastructure,” Hardwick said of his connections with state leadership.
Robert Shea, former chair of the Chamber of Commerce, said it was beneficial that Hardwick was familiar not only with Alexandria, but the greater D.C. metropolitan area, especially through his work with the Aerospace Industries Association.
Shea also said Hardwick’s energy, loyalty and commitment to Alexandria would be useful on council.
“The issue that I think I see him trying to get the city to grapple with is the imbalance in the property tax revenue and business revenue,” Shea said. “Whether or not that’s the foremost challenge he’ll deal with, I know it’s one he’s spent a lot of time thinking about.”
In the coming months, Hardwick said Alexandrians could expect action in the form of solutions and recommendations from his campaign.
“I firmly believe that those of us that are invested in the community, we really have to come to the table with what we think the best way forward is,” Hardwick said, “and that’s what we’re going to do over the next seven months with a lot of input from a lot of different people that are in the community and across Alexandria.”