2024 Candidate Profile: Jacinta Greene runs for Council

2024 Candidate Profile: Jacinta Greene runs for Council
Jacinta Greene is running for City Council. (Courtesy photo)

By Caitlyn Meisner | cmeisner@alextimes.com

Alexandria School Board member Jacinta Greene is ready to tackle public education, climate sustainability, affordable housing and small business support if elected to City Council.

“I base my life on helping those that need and those that don’t have a voice to advocate for themselves,” Greene said.

The Richmond native grew up in a family of educators and said she’s attended many school board meetings throughout her life. Her mother was a teacher and principal in Richmond City Public Schools, so she was accustomed to being heavily involved in public education from a young age.

“I grew to be fascinated with how you can always advocate for public education,” Greene said. “I literally sat at school board meetings for 10 years straight with my mom … who was the teacher rep for the teacher union.”

Greene grew up in the state capital with her Virginian-born parents and her older brother in a neighborhood built on community: it was built in the 1960s by a white developer with the help of a Black real estate agent, Greene said, who went into apartment complexes and taught young families how to buy a home.

She said all the Black families in the neighborhood were like extended family then and now. To this day, the same families remain in those homes and reunions are a regular occurrence.

“I don’t remember a day that we weren’t at one house or another or where we were getting tutoring,” Greene recalled. “When it was time for us in fifth grade to join the band, instruments [were provided by] kids that decided not to move any further in the band and you had to pick one of those instruments.”

Greene obtained her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1997. She first went to work for Kraft Foods in sales in 1999, but moved into a customer category manager position in 2000, where she worked until moving to Alexandria in 2002.

Greene said she had family in the Northern Virginia area, so moving to the region from her hometown wasn’t a huge step. She said she immediately fell in love with Alexandria’s commitment to engagement.

“I literally fell in love with the aspect of, Alexandria wants you to get involved. Alexandria wants you to fight for those things that you’re passionate about,” Greene said.

Greene quickly got involved with the Alexandria Democratic Committee upon her arrival; she rose through the ranks to become the volunteer coordinator and vice chair of volunteer coordination for five years. She also started the women’s caucus in the ADC.

She served as first vice chair for 10 years and commissioner of the Alexandria Commission for Women, a City Council-appointed commission intended to eliminate gender discrimination and encourage equal opportunities.

A political inspiration for Greene is her cousin, former U.S. Congressman Donald McEachin; he represented Virginia’s 4th congressional district from 2017 until his death in 2022. McEachin was the third African American elected to Congress from Virginia and the second elected from the state since the 19th century. He also served in the General Assembly as both a state senator and delegate.

Jacinta Greene with her cousin, the late U.S. Congressman Donald McEachin. (Courtesy photo)

Greene said the loss of her cousin has left a void in her life, as he was deeply influential in her early years. She recalled the countless times she went to campaign events for him and said she feels as though she is carrying on his legacy.

“He was the one that was like, ‘When you’re ready to do this, I’ll be there,’” Greene remembered. “In any situation where I needed a question answered or clarification, I was calling him. He said to me, ‘When you get in this, always remember you take care of the people and you take care of the environment.’”

Greene became a marketing supervisor for McDonald’s in 2002 and a contractor for Monster.com in 2003. She worked with McDonald’s for nearly 11 years before leaving corporate America.

“I was being promoted to another job somewhere else in another part of the country, and I didn’t want to leave Alexandria,” Greene said.

Greene now works as an independent marketing consultant and has been an ACPS School Board member for District A for nearly six years. She was previously vice chair of the Board, but has passed the torch to Kelly Carmichael Booz. Greene also currently serves on the board of Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc.-D.C. Chapter, a nonprofit that raises money for disadvantaged children in the DMV area.

The School Board member said while she’s enjoyed her years on the board, she feels it’s time there’s a voice like hers on City Council.

“I think there’s a need for someone that is pro-public education no matter what; someone that’s going to stand up for our schools and be able to talk and be very knowledgeable about the issues that are affecting our schools,” Greene said. “In the over 20 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen that.”

She said with the city’s ever-growing student population, conversations about new schools need to be had farther in advance to reduce overcrowding.

“It takes about – from the beginning of talking about a new school being needed and it coming to fruition – 10 years: that’s not a sign of quick turnaround,” Greene said. “We need … to have someone in the room keeping those conversations top of mind. We’re in a situation where something has to happen now.”

While the current City Council is supportive and educated on ACPS, Greene said someone with more expertise needs to sit on the dais.

“If you have someone that understands the inner workings of governing a school system … [it would be] just invaluable,” she said. “That is truly one of the most important reasons that I’m running for City Council.”

Greene said she’s proud of the work that’s been accomplished by the two boards she’s served on.

“One of the most rewarding experiences [was] taking our school system through a pandemic, making sure all of our students were taken care of from a food insecurity standpoint,” Greene said of the COVID-19 pandemic years. “Most of our low-income families did not have WiFi in their homes, so we made sure that the kids were able to be online for school.”

She said in terms of affordable housing, there needs to be someone advocating for Alexandrians on Council. As a single adult herself, she deals with the difficulty of remaining in the city as prices continue to climb.

“I built a life here and I want to stay here, and I’m determined to stay here,” Greene said.

Greene also said she’s seen the impact of dwindling affordable housing in Alexandria with the thousands of families she hears from in ACPS. She said she often thinks of the Alexandria City High School graduates who won’t be able to move back to the city due to rising prices.

“If they live here, they will probably have to live with their parents,” she said. “They should be able to afford to live in the city that raised them.”

She also proposed workforce housing for the city’s public servants – teachers, firefighters, police officers and the like. Greene said these people should be able to live in the city they work in.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing that they could live in the community that they worked in?” Greene reflected. “… Overarching, we have a retention problem in our workforce here. Anybody in that public sector realm cannot afford to live in Alexandria.”

Greene also wants to focus on climate sustainability and flooding mitigation if she’s elected to Council. She applauded Council’s establishment of the Office of Climate Action, but said it was 20 years too late.

“Climate change directly relates to the health of our residents here,” Greene acknowledged. “Making sure that we are the most responsible citizens and helping our city be greener is very important.”