- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

William D. Euille, who grew up in Alexandria’s public housing and attended its segregated schools, was elected mayor of the city on Tuesday.

Mr. Euille, a Democrat and City Council member, defeated five-term Republican council member William C. Cleveland and independent candidate Townsend A. Van Fleet in an election that solidified the Democrats’ hold on city leadership.

“Everyone keeps asking me, has it sunk in?” Mr. Euille said to a cheering crowd Tuesday night at the Radisson Hotel in Old Town. “I really don’t know yet. I’m on cloud nine.”

Mr. Euille, 53, who will be Alexandria’s first black mayor, recited a list of “firsts” in his life, including being one of the first students to attend T.C. Williams High School, which opened in 1965 as an integrated school, and being the first in his family to graduate from college.

“Now, another first: having the opportunity to serve in this city as Alexandria mayor, who happens to be African-American,” he said. Mr. Cleveland also is black. Mr. Van Fleet is white.

Unofficial returns showed Mr. Euille winning 52 percent of the vote in the three-way contest, which brought out about 20 percent of the city’s registered voters. He will replace Mayor Kerry J. Donley, also a Democrat, who is stepping down after seven years.

It was the Democrats’ night in Alexandria, where, in addition to retaining the mayor’s office, the party pulled off a sweep on the six-member council. The city is a Democratic stronghold, but officials said it has been several decades since the party held all City Council seats and the mayor’s job.

During the campaign, Mr. Euille promoted his ability to build consensus in a city that is becoming increasingly diverse. On the issue of open space, he favors dedicating a portion of property tax revenue for buying and preserving green space.

Mr. Euille weathered criticism during the campaign for supporting development projects, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters being built near the King Street Metro stop. He also called for tax relief for city homeowners, including expanding a program to help seniors pay tax bills, but he did not go as far as his opponents in his proposals to limit taxes.

During the campaign, Mr. Cleveland and several Republican council candidates criticized Mr. Euille and other Democrats, saying they failed to protect homeowners from property tax increases. Mr. Cleveland had proposed capping real estate tax bills.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Cleveland, 54, remained upbeat, saying that his campaign had pushed his opponent to adopt some of the Republican’s stands, particularly on tax relief and in slowing down the city’s rapid development.

“It was a great campaign,” Mr. Cleveland said by phone from Joe Theismann’s Restaurant, where his supporters had gathered. “I’m glad to see that the Democrats and the people of Alexandria picked up on the platform that our campaign pushed forward.”

Mr. Euille’s campaign highlighted his hometown roots, and some voters interviewed at polling places yesterday said that the message resonated with them. Mr. Euille owns a general contracting business in Alexandria and spent a decade on the School Board before being elected to the City Council in 1994.

“He’s from this area, and I like the fact he’s a self-made man. It sets a good example for other Alexandrians,” said Sean Brown, 36, an adult-education teacher for Alexandria public schools.

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