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Councilmember Muriel Bowser on Being Fifth Generation D.C.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Bowser - 525

“I am fifth-generation D.C. People from this town are in a special club and are very proud. You always know when someone is from D.C. because that is one of the first things they tell you. My family has been here for generations and has seen this city change. I am the youngest of five kids. Our parents raised us to really love this city and give back. My parents both worked for the city government for almost forty years. They taught us that if we want to change this city, we need to stay here and work to make that change. Up until last year, all of my siblings lived in D.C. Now one of my brothers lives in North Carolina , but the rest of us are here.

You always know when someone is from D.C. because that is one of the first things they tell you

“I grew up in a time when D.C. was the murder capital. This city was really struck by the crack epidemic and some neighborhoods were just completely ravaged. One of the biggest things that impressed me about my father was how he waged a campaign against drugs at the time. He was a leader of the orange hats in our neighborhood. They were a community watch group that established a presence in the neighborhood. At the time, there was open-air drug dealing in the District and this was a way of taking our corners back. My father was fearless.

“That’s just how it was in my household. Everyone did something in the neighborhood. That was what we all enjoyed doing. Now I see it as an obligation to bring along people in my age group, as well as women, to get involved in politics.  In our city, we don’t have a lot of elected offices, but there are so many opportunities to be in leadership, whether on the Parent Teacher Association or an Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

“I always knew that I would be in the government. I started off after college in the private sector and hated it. I knew that it wasn’t where my best talents would be used. I went to grad school in policy and worked in local government for a number of years. But there is a point when you know that if you want to change a bureaucracy, it’s best not to be in it. Elected office is really the best way to make change.

“In this position, I am more optimistic about where we’re going as a city than I was before the Council. I see the changes we are making and how quickly reform can take root. I also see that focusing on grassroots views of how to change a community is important. You can’t go from the top down. Ward 4 residents want investment, improvements and options, but don’t want to wake up and say, ‘Where are we?” We want to keep growing, and it is so important that in my Ward development is community-agitated. People are fearful of change unless they have a hand in it. So, we are working with them to focus on neighborhood development and schools. With time, our neighborhoods are getting safer and better looking, but we still have work to do.”

Councilmember Bowser was first elected to the City Council in 2007. She chairs the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. She is also a member of the Committee on Economic Development, the Committee on Human Services, and the Committee on Public World and Transportation. Learn more about Councilmember Bowser here.

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