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Alexandria City Council candidate Charlotte Scherer is against the Potomac Yard arena deal

Alexandria City Council candidate Charlotte Scherer (staff photo by James Cullum)

ALXnow will be running a series of City Council candidate interviews through the local election filing deadline on April 4.

Alexandria City Council candidate Charlotte Scherer is running to be Alexandria’s first transgender City Councilor and is one of the few candidates firmly against the Potomac Yard arena deal.

Like her City Council opponents in the Democratic primary, Scherer is focusing her campaign on housing affordability, transparency and fully funding the Metro and city school systems. Unlike many of them, however, she is firmly against the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal, and stands with labor unions in their opposition.

“I stand firmly against the construction of the arena, primarily due to the considerable public investment and resources it requires,” Scherer said. “The prospect of creating 30,000 jobs loses its appeal when it becomes apparent that only a minority will (be offered) a living wage.”

Scherer continued, “The expected influx of tens of thousands of commuters from Maryland and the District on event nights will become a permanent feature of our lives.”

In the last three years, the former attorney and Alexandria magistrate said goodbye to her previous identity and changed her name to Charlotte Achelois Scherer. She also became the first trans member on the city’s Commission for Women.

“Alexandria is really facing a housing affordability crisis,” she told ALXnow. “Near 40% of people in Alexandria are paying more than a third of their gross income just to pay the mortgage or the rent. Something needs to be done about it.” 

In her campaign announcement to the Alexandria Democratic Committee (ADC), Scherer said that she had to undergo a journey within herself over the last several years.

“I came out to my wife in 2021 as transgender, and the first thing she said to me was, ‘We’re going to get through this,’ and we did,” Scherer said. “I didn’t even realize at the time just what kind of journey I was undertaking then, just beginning two-and-a-half years ago.”

Scherer says that she got multiple facial reconstructive surgeries and trained with a speech therapist to remodulate her voice. She says she paid for the surgeries from a large settlement from the Catholic Church in a case alleging sexual abuse against her when she was a child.

Scherer also admitted to getting a DUI in Howard County, Tennessee, in 2013. She says that therapy helped her to stop problematic drinking and eventually embrace her new identity.

“But for the DUI ten years ago, I would not have sought out therapy,” she said. “Without therapy, I would not have acknowledged the abuse that happened to me as a young child. Without speaking about that, I never would have received compensation. And compensation gave me the means of becoming who I truly am.”

Scherer has a law degree from the University of Florida. She says she tried about 60 cases as a public defender in Fort Myers, and is now studying online to get a Master’s Degree in psychology from Harvard University.

Scherer also unsuccessfully ran for a County Commissioner seat in Florida as a Republican in 2004. A Tampa Bay native, she says that the culture there leans Republican, and that she became a Democrat after moving to the D.C. area in 2011 to work as a contract attorney on legal teams negotiating mergers. She became a member of the ADC in 2015, after which Scherer and her future wife moved to the Braddock area, where they still live today.

On May 31, 2022, Scherer was arrested for trespassing inside Madison Street Tattoo (1012 Madison Street), which is within walking distance from her apartment. It was Memorial Day and Scherer had been asking for a Georgia O’Keefe-styled orchid tattoo for months from the shop, but was previously told via email that the service was unavailable. When the conversation with the manager intensified, shop owner Danny Zelsman left the customer he was tattooing and asked Scherer to leave.

“At that point, my manager said that she felt uncomfortable with the proximity of Ms. Scherer to her and that she was making us uncomfortable,” Zelsman recalled. “And Ms. Scherer slammed her fist down on the table and said, ‘You’re making me uncomfortable,’ at which point she sat down on the bench and refused to get up and leave, despite me saying that the police were coming.”

Scherer says that she refused to leave out of an act of civil disobedience.

“Madison Street Tattoos cannot deny they denied me service,” Scherer said. “I am absolutely convinced I did the right thing. A peaceful sit-down protest in the face of discriminatory actions.”

Scherer had been trying to get the tattoo for several months, but was told in an email in March that the traveling artist Madison Street Tattoo used for such work had recently parted ways with the business. The manager apologized and provided Scherer with the artist’s contact information, according to emails provided to ALXnow.

In one email, Scherer wrote, “Madison Street Tattoos made a promise to me four months ago — that’s what an appointment is, a promise. I don’t have an Instagram account, and I’m not going to set one up just to get blown off/brushed off/ignored again. I’m trans, I get kicked around enough.”

The trespassing charges were later dropped when Zelsman and Scherer signed an agreement where, in exchange for no charges, Scherer would not step within 1,000 feet of the business, disparage it in any way or take any legal action against it.

Zelsman said that Scherer should not hold public office.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to see this person in a position of power that’s dictating the way other people would live,” he said. “The level of calm and rationale that was not expressed here, in a moment of being rejected for a service that we don’t provide is really small potatoes. If that is the way you behave when you are dismissed by someone that’s just trying to run a small business and contribute to this community in some way, how is it gonna play out when you’re in City Council and making real decisions that really affect other people?”

Scherer said she’s focused on working hard to win her self-funded campaign, and that she’s seeking no endorsements.

“I am running to make Alexandria a better place,” Scherer said. “And I will always do the right thing in my heart and in my mind that I think is right.”

The Democratic primary is on June 18.

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