By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Amy Jackson, a former Fairfax County teacher and longtime Alexandria resident, is the latest to announce her candidacy for city council.
Jackson filed to run for council as a Democrat on Nov. 14 and is hosting her official campaign kickoff on Jan. 6. She was raised in Alexandria, graduated from T.C. Williams High School and is currently a resident of the Seminary Hill neighborhood.
Although she hasn’t previously held public office, she has served on the city’s Commission for Women, the board for the Fund for Alexandria’s Child and as a volunteer for The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria’s annual gala. She said she considered running for council as the next step for her.
“I grew up here and I’ve always been involved in the community. When I started getting more and more involved in the nonprofit world and with my education background, I felt that I was into so many projects and programs that the next logical step for me, in order to help who I wanted to help, was to run for office,” she said.
“I thought ‘those underprivileged children, seniors, everyone who doesn’t really have a voice, maybe I can help,’” Jackson said.
Jackson taught at the middle and high school level in Northern Virginia for more than a decade. She taught at Falls Church High School and Westfield High School, which is part of Fairfax County Public Schools, over the course of her career.
Among other courses, she taught honors World Civilization, World History and AP
World History, as well as Civics at the middle school level.
“I really had the time of my life teaching. I still enjoy it. I miss the kids, but I feel like there are walls that confine you as a teacher. You’re in one building and everything you do is within that building,” Jackson said.
Jackson took a break from teaching to spend more time with her two young children, who will be four and six in January.
Her young children are part of what would motivate her to focus on early education and K-12 education if she were elected to council next year. She said, if elected, she would also focus on the city’s social programs, issues surrounding safety in the city, affordable housing and development projects like Landmark Mall and the planned Potomac Yard Metro.
“I always look at social programs and the safety of our city. Alexandria has always been considered an inclusive community and they’ve prided themselves on that, and I’m a proud Alexandrian. Some of [what’s been cut out of] the budget over the years has taken away a lot of [city] offices and staff… I want to make sure in those specific places, our social programs continue to help at the optimum level kids, atrisk children and immigrant
families,” she said.
Jackson said she’s concerned, with the cost of living rising in Alexandria, that more city staff, including faculty at Alexandria City Public Schools and the city’s first responders, can no longer afford to live within city boundaries.
“Our teachers and first responders are priced right out of living here. It’s unfair and it’s unsafe. If we needed all our first responders on hand, all our police, all our firefighters, not all of them live within the city … A lot of them live in other jurisdictions and have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to get here,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she’s also concerned with a number of development and economic issues in the city, including the ongoing redevelopment of Landmark Mall by the Howard Hughes Corporation and stagnant economic growth within the city.
“Landmark Mall was an open mall when I grew up, and then they went and enclosed it. In the last five years, and probably more than that, it’s just dwindled. We, as citizens of Alexandria, don’t have a mall to go to … Back in the day, all the kids would go to hang out at the mall and buy things. We don’t even have student revenue going into the mall now,” Jackson said. “That project being put on hold is unacceptable.”
With new development across the river at National Harbor and The Wharf, Jackson said more needs to be done to make Alexandria a competitive destination.
“People are taking their money elsewhere and now we have The Wharf to contend with … No one is staying in Alexandria, so our economy is stagnant,” she said.
Jackson said council will need to focus on creative solutions to addressing the city’s budget in the coming years, especially when it comes to funding for ACPS and providing pre-K for all students.
“As an educator, I’ll always say the kids come first. You have to invest in the future,” Jackson said. “We need [free] pre-K programs. We see the achievement early on. When you get into the middle and upper grades, it’s often those who were able to afford a pre-K program who have the upper hand.”
“The other children are not getting those lessons, whether it’s social lessons or academic lessons, in a school environment. They need to be because they are left behind when they get into kindergarten and, honestly, the kindergarteners that had pre-K programs are leading the troops in comparison to those that didn’t have a pre-K program or they’re the ones being held back because teachers have to educate the ones left behind,” she said.
Those who have worked with Jackson on the board of the Fund for Alexandria’s Child and the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria say she would be a community-focused and driven leader.
“She is definitely a go-getter. She cares about the community. She has two young kids, so [her focus would be] making Alexandria a better place for them and also bringing the community together. She was a history teacher for many years, so bringing that aspect of her knowledge of Alexandria to the forefront is really one of her qualities too,” said Sarah Gajewski, who has worked with Jackson as a volunteer for three years.
Gajewski said Jackson would bring something different to the dais.
“I think she would bring a new element. She’s someone who will go after it. She does also look at both sides, so if she believes in something, she will go after it, but she’ll take a look at both sides,” Gajewski said. “She definitely will look at things in a broader spectrum and see how it will focus on Alexandria.” Krystal Fenwick, coordinator of community services
for the Department of Community and Human Services, which includes The Fund for Alexandria’s Child, said she would be a passionate city leader.
“She has been a force to be reckoned with for sure,” Fenwick said of Jackson’s time on the board of The Fund for Alexandria’s Child. “… She has a passion for whatever she’s involved in. She puts 100 percent in. I was excited for her [when she announced], but I was also excited for Alexandria’s youth and families.”
Fenwick said she expects to see her focus on a range of issues related to education and the underprivileged.
“With her work on the advisory council, I would hope foster care and social service issues that are impacting Alexandria would be a focus, whether it be the disparity around foster care or affordable housing,” Fenwick said. “I think she would focus on the more vulnerable populations of Alexandria.”
Jackson, for her part, said she has been happy with the decisions of Alexandria’s sitting city council, but that she also hopes to bring something new.
“I’ve been happy with how everything has gone, but I think we have a lot more to do, and I think I have the energy, drive and ambition, and experience, to help get it done,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s announcement that she’ll run for council follows Dak Hardwick’s announcement in October and Mo Seifeldein’s announcement earlier in November.
She will host a “Meet the Candidate” at Port City Brewing Co. on Thursday evening.