By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Kevin Dunne isn’t the most traditional candidate vying for a seat on council in 2018.
So far the only Republican to declare for council, Dunne is also one of the youngest candidates overall at 24.
Not surprising for someone in his 20s, Dunne is focused on technology and the future.
“It started with just a single question, which is, 20 years from now, when we will still have Alexandria with all its problems and successes, what will be the decisions we can all say were great decisions to make,” Dunne said. “There are … great decisions we can make between now and when [a new] council comes on board 20 years from now. I want to find out what those decisions can be and what they should be.”
Dunne said he recently decided to run because he doesn’t see those potential solutions in the proposals being put forward by other council candidates.
“That’s not [to] say the visions are bad. I just don’t feel them to be comprehensive enough. They’re not putting forward convincing frameworks of thought and discussion that will be so essential in controlling some of the issues we’re going have to face in the city,” he said.
Dunne said a major focus of his candidacy is improving business and tourism in the city. He said developments across the river in D.C. and Maryland, including The Wharf and National Harbor, must be actively addressed.
“We haven’t considered the implications to such projects as The Wharf and National Harbor. We haven’t turned outward, but inward,” Dunne said.
Dunne also said the city should turn more of its attention toward fleshing out its capital improvement program and getting on the same page as other localities when it comes to technology.
“It seems like sometimes we’re focusing on providing 20th-century solutions to 21st-century problems,” Dunne said. “We haven’t been exploring how [many] technological changes will come and how much further ahead residents will be as opposed to our government. We have a potential disconnect where Alexandria, as a city, needs to come together.”
Dunne, originally from Westchester County near New York City, has lived in Alexandria for three years. He now works for a company he did not identify that specializes in business intelligence. Dunne also serves on the board of directors at VeloCity Bicycle Cooperative, where he acts as development chair and oversees fundraising efforts.
Bayley Vanderpoel, former VeloCity board chair and current board member, recruited Dunne to serve on the leadership team last year. Vanderpoel said one of Dunne’s greatest strengths is his ability to adapt.
“He came to VeloCity with no experience with nonprofit co-ops like ours and he was able to ask the right questions. … He’s able to identify ways he can provide value right from the get-go,” Vanderpoel said.
Vanderpoel said Dunne is someone who thinks through problems and is able to come up with solutions. He pointed to Dunne’s introduction of a marketing campaign at VeloCity, as well as his progress with standardizing processes.
“He’s able to introduce new ideas and build cohesiveness. I believe, regardless of party, he’s able to build cohesiveness on council and try to reach agreements with an end solution in mind,” Vanderpoel said. “Right now, especially with how divisive our political system is, I can’t imagine him bringing more tension.”
Though he’s currently the only Republican seeking a spot on council, Dunne said his campaign is more about local issues and less about party affiliation.
“My campaign aspires to be focused on addressing city issues in creative ways. It is simply my personal opinion, as a private resident, that there’s a lot of perspectives from my party that are useful from the standpoint of leadership in an elected capacity,” Dunne said. “Don’t let the labels on any side fool you – this is about city issues first and foremost. My perspective is consistent with both my personal feelings about how certain issues should be handled and what’s on the board right now, so to speak.”
Dunne said Alexandria would benefit from having a broader range of viewpoints on council, including Republicans.
“I think we do truly need a diversity of perspectives. That’s what makes for an effective government. We can’t have an echo chamber,” Dunne said. “To fight that tendency, not even just right now, but in the future, we do need a more egalitarian political representation.”
Former Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland, who has also worked with Dunne through the VeloCity board, said Dunne would bring needed diversity of opinion.
“The City of Alexandria talks so much about diversity – he would bring that diversity,” Cleveland said. “He would be that diverse view. He would have a different point of view. Because it’s all Democrats, there’s little diversity, I would say. You have one person there that doesn’t go with all of the council.”
“You do have some 6-1 votes, but very, very few,” Cleveland said. “There are some 6-1 votes. You see that one person that’s out there that needs a second, that needs true diversity to come through. Kevin could be that second.”
Cleveland said Dunne’s youth would also be a benefit to him.
“He’s a go-getter, he is fiscally minded and he has the future in mind, being a millennial,” Cleveland said. “He would be a new voice.”
Dunne said if elected, he would look to bring a strategic approach to the issues facing council.
“We need to provide not just a solution to one problem and multiply that across every front. We need to focus in on what’s important for this city and go do it,” Dunne said. “My campaign is not trying to hit every front with equal force – I want to focus on themes, questions, strategies, what we need to achieve.”
Dunne said his campaign ultimately comes down to the issues and to the questions the city should be asking itself.
“Alexandria has issues that require an issues-based candidate and I’d like to think I’m, first and foremost, the person chasing after big questions and big problems,” Dunne said. “This is a campaign that’s focusing on trying to change the discourse and how we conceive our community in relation to big structural challenges.”
Dunne joins eight Democratic newcomers, Dak Hardwick, Amy Jackson, Mo Seifeldein, Robert Ray, Canek Aguirre, Matt Feely, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Chris Hubbard, and four Democratic incumbents, Del Pepper, Paul Smedberg, Willie Bailey and John Chapman, in vying for council.
Dunne will officially kick off his campaign on Saturday at Founder’s Park at 1:30 p.m