On September 30th I will officially retire from District government, thus completing a long, very eventful journey. Upon completing graduate school over 47 years ago I made a commitment to urban government as a career. Some of you may remember the scene back then: civil unrest, burned out neighborhoods, social injustice, income inequality, decaying infrastructure, high unemployment, accelerating suburban flight, and badly depleted public coffers. The picture was not a pretty one, and the future of America’s cities certainly looked bleak at that point. Being an urbanite at heart, I was hell bent on doing something to help save our cities along with a cadre of other likeminded, crazy souls. I arrived in DC early in 1970 with aspirations to move on to San Francisco. Needless to say, I never left. My career in the District has been a running documentary on national and local history that I had the privilege to witness up close and sometimes personally at the scene: the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who descended on Washington periodically to protest against the Vietnam War while facing soldiers with bayonets on their rifles and heavily armed police; the shrieks from Post readers at the coffee shop each morning as they reacted to the latest revelations from Woodward and Bernstein; the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon; the passage of the Home Rule Act and the swearing in of Walter Washington, DC’s first elected Mayor; the public giddiness and pride that burst forth with the opening of the first segment of the Red Line after enduring years of torn up streets; the Hanafi attack on the District Building (city hall) and the wounding of Marion Barry; the Air Florida crash into the icy Potomac River that ended mournfully with only 5 survivors; the thousands of teary-eyed Vietnam Vets in worn, faded fatigues marching to the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial behind General Westmoreland in civvies; the District’s monstrous budget shortfall and imposition of a Federal Control Board to manage city finances; resumption of Mayoral and Council control over the District’s fiscal affairs after recording five successive balanced budgets; the terrorist attack on the Pentagon that impacted countless lives; the unbounded excitement, glee and pride felt by all those watching the nation’s first African-American President strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue after taking the oath of office; and the enactment of legislation providing for direct mayoral control over public schools. And I could go on and on about all kinds of historic, strategic, tragic, humorous and even odd events that occurred during my tenure with District government. It truly has been a journey.
So what have I accomplished? What am I most proud of? First and foremost, I have five wonderful, talented and independent children who have earned college and post graduate degrees, and who are successfully pursuing their chosen careers. The second is the role I played, however minute, in the comeback of cities, and especially the District. What a difference from when I first stepped into the fray 47 years ago! The District is a growing, vibrant and financially sound community with the promise of a bright future that is shared by many other cities across our nation. And yes, even Detroit is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve followed a career path which I was truly passionate about , and I’ve experienced positive outcomes that one can only dream about at the outset. For all of this and the many fine and wonderful people I’ve met along the road, I feel truly blessed.
Warmest regards to you and your family, and best wishes for a challenging and rewarding career.