My View with Meronne Teklu: Why I’m running for council

My View with Meronne Teklu: Why I’m running for council
Meronne Teklu. Courtesy photo.

My story really starts with my parents and their pursuit of the American Dream. I was born in Alexandria to resilient immigrant parents. They worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, graduated from university and became successful professionals. Together, they started their life in the West End and today, I live in that same community.

However, I grew up in Northern Virginia seeing two sides of Alexandria: the rich, historic Old Town and the less accessible, but more diverse side of the West End. Our community comprises about 46% immigrants, many of which are Black and brown residents. During the pandemic, we have seen that communities of color have been disproportionately and negatively impacted. In our city, we have seen massive evictions, rising unemployment and growing concerns around potential displacement.

In addition, our minority and women-owned small businesses faced some of the toughest challenges and negative economic impacts that we will need to prioritize supporting in 2022 and beyond.

I am running for Alexandria City Council to connect our historically minority and underrepresented communities with our city leadership. I believe that our elected officials must be held accountable in enacting long-term change. The pandemic has only highlighted the growing concerns around communities of color being displaced, gentrified and forgotten.

We must address the affordability crisis issue in our city. We must address modernizing our public infrastructure and investing in our broadband infrastructure. We must support livable wages and our city’s essential workers. We must address climate change and fund initiatives to decrease our city’s greenhouse emissions. We need change and we need it now.

On council, I will bring a fresh, data-driven, people-centered perspective and will fight for a livable Alexandria where everyone can thrive. I will bring my more than eight years of nonprofit experience leading youth engagement for the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation and mentoring high school students from first generation and immigrant backgrounds with the Institute for East African Councils on Higher Education.

As a consultant for a large professional services firm in Northern Virginia, I solve complex technology problems for businesses through the lens of equity and innovation. I believe that our decisions on the city level should be co-created with those most impacted by the issue. Listening takes time – and it takes patience. But outcomes are best when all Alexandria voices have had an opportunity to be heard. I will bring this leadership style and commitment to council. And, just as important, I will bring my full heart to the job.

We need a City Council that values what they represent: a future where our communities continue to not be pushed out and have the opportunity to grow here. This is a bold, progressive vision that I hope you share and that you will support me in my effort to be that voice – our voice – on the Alexandria City Council.

So, I ask for your vote and for your support because campaigns aren’t won by the candidate whose name is listed on the ballot; they are won by all of the people standing behind that candidate. That’s all of you.

The writer is a candidate for City Council in the June 8 Democratic primary.