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Del Ray’s Jesse O’Connell joins race for Alexandria City Council

Del Ray’s Jesse O’Connell is running for the Alexandria City Council (courtesy photo)

Del Ray’s Jesse O’Connell has thrown his hat into the City Council race.

O’Connell launched a campaign website this morning and announced his intention to run in an email.

“I have been really lucky to work across a wide variety of city departments and issues,” O’Connell told ALXnow. “I think I have really good perspective on how all these things fit together. Fundamentally, I’m somebody that likes to solve problems. I think I’m really good at listening to people and sort of building consensus. I’m a collaborator, and I hope to bring that to Council.”

The married father of two is chief advancement officer at the American Council on Education, and has served for more than a decade on a number of city boards and commissions, including as chair of the city’s influential Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee. He sees himself as a collaborator, a “servant leader” who believes that the city’s Zoning for Housing policies don’t go far enough in expanding affordable housing opportunities. He also says he’s excited about the potential for a good deal with the controversial $2 billion Potomac Yard arena.

“I think a good deal looks like the opportunity to fundamentally change the city’s revenue projections,” O’Connell said. “We’ve made investments in our public safety workers, we are working on stormwater infrastructure, we are spending a lot of money on stuff that we have to spend money on, and a lot of that revenue burden is borne by our taxpayers. I think the chance to get kind of a transformative commercial-oriented source of revenue is a really exciting one for the city.”

O’Connell is a New Jersey native and moved to the area to attend Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in social and public policy. He is also a former All-American track star, who placed fifth in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2004 in the 800 meters. He and his wife moved to Alexandria in 2012.

“The whole time we’ve lived here, I have looked for ways to give back and to contribute,” he said.

Since last August, he’s also co-authored an Alexandria-focused blog, ALXtra. It’s a satire blog, O’Connell says, humorously intended for millennials.

“I think the newsletter is very informed by kind of a millennial sensibility,” he said. “I think it’s very informed by kind of a literacy with internet culture.”

On Zoning for Housing, O’Connell said that the city’s elimination of single family zoning is a good start.

“I think where the city landed at the end of this first phase was the right place to be,” O’Connell said. “People want to live here because it’s a great place to live. If we don’t have the housing supply to meet that demand, prices are going to go up. I’ve been really encouraged to see the city think more holistically more creatively about giving this broader set of tools to meet that housing demand.”

O’Connell is also a running buddy with Mayor Justin Wilson, who is not running for reelection. He also said that the next mayor will have to be a collaborator.

“I think we’re losing somebody that is tireless and dedicated,” O’Connell said of Wilson. “I genuinely can’t think of a better example of constituent service. He’s responding to people and interacting with people at all hours of the day and night. It’s clear that he deeply cares about Alexandria and wants to ensure that Alexandria is able to be the city for a whole sort of wide set of people.”

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