2024 Candidate Profile: Abdel Elnoubi runs for Council

2024 Candidate Profile: Abdel Elnoubi runs for Council
Abdel Elnoubi is running for City Council. (Courtesy photo)

By Wafir Salih | wsalih@alextimes.com

Abdel Elnoubi is driven to bring his perspective to Alexandria City Council, embodied by his campaign theme of a “tale of two Alexandrias.” As a School Board member and a former PTA president, Elnoubi’s top priorities are housing affordability, transportation and schools. He intends to bring his engineering skills and leadership experience from the School Board to Council if elected.

“One skill I’m hoping to bring to City Council that I feel I brought to the School Board is problem-solving, thinking analytically and trying to find optimal solutions,” Elnoubi said.

Elnoubi was born in Chicago to Egyptian immigrants and began his early schooling in Falls Church. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Alexandria, Egypt, where he spent the remainder of his formative years. Elnoubi said his early experiences in the United States provided him with a frame of reference when comparing life in both countries.

“I saw what schools looked like in the U.S. I saw what the streets looked like in the U.S. I saw what transportation looked like in the U.S.,” he said. “I was young, but these were things I was aware of.”

Elnoubi observed a stark contrast in all aspects of life when he moved to Egypt; as he grew older, he realized living under a military dictatorship – where corruption was rampant – was the reason for these differences.

“There is no such thing as representation in government [in Egypt]. There is no such thing as free and fair elections. You don’t get to choose who represents you. You can’t hold them accountable. If you try, you’re risking your life or getting imprisoned essentially,” Elnoubi said. “That’s why government is broken [there] doesn’t work for the people. That’s why quality of life is so terrible and why economic opportunities are very few and corruption is widespread.”

Elnoubi spent 13 years living in Egypt and returned to the U.S. at the age of 20 in 2007 in search of better opportunities. He graduated in 2010 with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the City College of New York in New York City. In 2017, Elnoubi obtained his master’s in engineering management from George Washington University.

Abdel Elnoubi and state Sen. Saddam Azlan Salim (front left) canvassing with supporters. (Courtesy photo)

Elnoubi moved to Alexandria in 2011 for his first job post-college at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After 18 months, he secured a job at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as a vehicle engineer, where he worked on rail vehicles and conducted track inspections. 

“I got to learn a lot about our infrastructure in WMATA, what a good state of infrastructure means, how preventive maintenance is important and understand some of the technicalities behind our infrastructure,” Elnoubi said.

Elnoubi has been with WMATA for more than 11 years. He now serves as the capital program manager, where he focuses on capital budgets and business support. If elected to Council, he plans to leverage his expertise to enhance the city’s transportation system.

“One of my platform policies is improving our transportation system in the city, making us more connected, reliable, accessible and multimodal,” Elnoubi said. “It’s not just better for the environment, but also for our economy, for equity in general, for giving people access to opportunities and for our general quality of life, because less cars on the streets is better for our traffic situation.”

Elnoubi traced his political awakening back to the 2016 presidential election and former President Donald Trump’s campaign. He said seeing a frontrunner of one of the two major parties run on “pure hate” and win was a turning point for him and led him to getting involved in politics.

“I realized I had to do something about it. I realized that our democracy is as fragile as I thought it was. People didn’t believe me, but I saw that because I grew up in a dictatorship. I said it could happen here. I’ve seen what he’s doing; it’s the same playbook,” Elnoubi said.

So, Elnoubi joined the Alexandria Democratic Committee. He served as a precinct captain in Samuel Tucker and on the executive committee as the co-vice chair of outreach to get Democrats elected up and down the ballot. He later became a PTA president for Samuel Tucker Elementary School and subsequently served as the secretary. He also became an activist with Grassroots Alexandria, a local advocacy group, and was appointed by Council to the city’s Criminal Justice Board.

In 2021, Elnoubi was elected to the School Board, becoming the first Arab American Muslim elected to that position. In his tenure on the Board, Elnoubi has championed mental health: He introduced amendments to add an additional psychologist at Alexandria City High School and co-sponsored legislation to secure full-time positions for elementary school psychologists.

Elnoubi also said he introduced a resolution to establish 15-mile-per-hour zones around all schools.

“Some schools, especially the West End schools that tend to be more socially [and] economically disadvantaged, did not have 15-mile-an-hour school zones, but other schools did, so we got that [resolution] done,” Elnoubi said.

Elnoubi described how he led the charge on a collective bargaining resolution that passed and aimed at being fair for teachers. He also introduced several amendments to the recent budget to further improve the resolution.

“I spent so many hours working on that issue. I actually took a lot of my vacation time from work, because we were meeting a lot as a committee during the day,” Elnoubi said. “But I’m very proud of [the resolution]. I think it’s the biggest achievement I will leave on the School Board and it’s going to have decades of impact for our teachers.”

Elnoubi said he saw firsthand the impact of collective bargaining during his early days at WMATA. 

“It was transformational for me [because] when we got a new collective bargaining agreement, that not just gave me a bit of a pay bump, but also gave us some back pay,” Elnoubi said.

Abdel Elnoubi and Arab American Alexandrians outside the City Council chambers after receiving a proclamation recognizing April as Arabic American Heritage Month. (Courtesy photo)

Elnoubi said a priority for him on Council would be housing affordability.

“Our teachers may not qualify for affordable housing, so maybe we need workforce housing for them. Same for our firefighters, our police officers. … they may not be making low enough of an income to qualify for the affordable housing assistance program,” he said.

He said he didn’t support the Monumental Sports & Entertainment arena proposal primarily due to traffic congestion and transportation concerns. He highlighted the lack of safeguards against potential renegotiations that could have disadvantaged the city financially.

“What would have prevented [Monumental] 10 years down the line from telling us, ‘We either want a better lease with a lesser rate, or we want to change this or that term in the lease?’” Elnoubi said. “[Monumental] had over 20 years left in the lease with [Washington,] D.C. when they said, ‘We’re packing up and leaving.’ They would have done the same thing to us. We had made our projections based on them staying for 40 years … but what if they had done that [to us]? Then the projections would be different.”

Elnoubi criticized the proposal’s rollout and said the lack of transparency may have hindered community engagement.

“I think just the way it was rolled out as if it’s a done deal and then, ‘Let’s do community input.’ That’s where we kind of missed the mark on getting the community’s buy-in into at least considering it,” Elnoubi said.

Elnoubi said his long-term goal is to foster a more climate-friendly Alexandria with improved transportation and equal opportunities for all residents.

“I want to see a city where everyone has access to equal opportunities. I want to see a city that is climate friendly that has zero emissions, where our schools are the best, where it’s very affordable to live in and where our streets are well designed and safe,” Elnoubi said.