Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley and former Vice Mayor Mel Bergheim endorsed Donna Fossum at the Democrat’s city council campaign kickoff on Sunday at Tempo Restaurant on Duke Street.
Fossum, a 30-year West End resident and 22-year member of the city’s Planning Commission, said she’s making a run for council because of a leadership void in the city created by the departure of Donley and Councilman Rob Krupicka. Both Democrats are not seeking re-election.
“The reason I am running is because I really think there is a void,” Fossum said. “I think I bring more experience to city council than some who have served there before.”
Outside of her work on the Planning Commission, Fossum also serves on the Transportation Commission and the city’s High-Capacity Transit Corridor Work Group. Fossum said she took on spots in each group consciously so work between the three could be in concert.
Like many of the 12 other Democrats vying for six spots on November’s ballot, Fossum spoke of exploring transit options and following the principles of smart growth as ways of alleviating transportation issues in the city.
“We need to think about moving people instead of moving cars,” Fossum said. “We have enough asphalt.”
She also spoke of rebuilding trust between the city and its neighbors by striving for better regional coordination to tackle transit and transportation. She mentioned the construction of the Department of Defense’s BRAC-133 in the West End and how that came into being without it ever being subject to the planning commission approval process.
“We can’t have anymore surprises [like BRAC],” she said.
In terms of education, Fossum addressed tapping into Alexandria’s well-educated populace to explore partnerships to potentially lift the school system. According to the 2010 Census, 60.4 percent of Alexandrians over the age of 25 have college or professional degrees—more than twice the national average.
Fossum also said there is a need to improve emergency services in the city to reduce response times and cut insurance rates in the city. As part of her work with the Beauregard Corridor Stakeholders Work Group, Fossum suggested the city secure a fire station on the west side of Interstate 395.
Donley said Fossum’s land-use background will be a big asset on council, adding that she is “uniquely equipped to fill” a leadership void.
Bergheim, first elected to council in 1970, said Fossum will present herself as “an even-tempered, even-handed influence” if elected.
“I’ve never seen a more competitive city council race,” Bergheim said. “With at least 13 candidates on the Democratic ticket alone, it’s going to be quite a race. It’s an interesting and turbulent time. Fortunately we have some excellent candidates. … Donna is the best-qualified new candidate for city council.”
Fossum also has picked up endorsements from former Alexandria Mayor Patsy Ticer and former Councilman David Speck, Donley said.
The Democrats will select six candidates for the general election in a primary tentatively scheduled for June 12.