- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Muriel Bowser’s win in the D.C. mayor’s race has put the District in exclusive company: cities in which women serve in the positions of mayor, police chief and schools chancellor.

While not unusual for the District — women have served in each of the positions before — it is the first time three of them have served in the jobs simultaneously and is a phenomenon only seen nationally in the smaller cities of Minneapolis and Santa Monica, California.

Ms. Bowser’s win on Tuesday was secured with 54.7 percent of the vote in the city’s mayoral race to defeat independent David A. Catania, who won 34.4 percent and Carol Schwartz, who earned 7.2 percent.

The Democratic mayor-elect on Wednesday said she was “humbled and grateful” for the win and that she was “appreciative of the clear mandate” given to her by voters.

On the campaign trail, Ms. Bowser pledged to keep two top female leaders in place: Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. She said Wednesday she intends to announce her transition team in the coming days. The team will be headquartered out of One Judiciary Square and Ms. Bowser noted Wednesday that her initial priorities will be affordable housing, homelessness and growing the middle class.

Jack Evans, the District’s longest serving D.C. Council member, applauded Ms. Bowser’s win on Tuesday night, but shook off the notion that having women in the District’s top posts was anything unusual.

“We’ve always had women in very important positions in the city,” said Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, noting Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s longtime nonvoting congressional representative, and the city’s first female mayor, Sharon Pratt. “We really led the way because even when the first councils were here, we had the majority of women on those councils. It’s always been a very progressive jurisdiction in that regard, more so than most.”

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said he had recently remarked on the fact that fewer women were serving on the D.C. Council than in the recent past. Taking the results from Tuesday’s election into account, five of the 13 seats on the D.C. Council will be filled by women with Ms. Bowser’s Ward 4 seat up for grabs.

“It ebbs and flows,” Mr. Mendelson said.

But the gender breakdown of the top-level posts sticks out when compared to who holds the positions across the country. While a 2010 study by the American Association of School Administrators found that nearly one in four school superintendents was a woman, a January survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that only 18 percent of the 1,351 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000 were women. And the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives reported last year that women held the position of chief in 169 out of 1,552 law enforcement agencies surveyed.

That three women should be serving in the high-level posts simultaneously is attributable to Ms. Bowser’s election — Chief Lanier was appointed in 2006 and Ms. Henderson took over from another female chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, in 2011.

Ms. Bowser’s promise to keep the high-profile department heads is one sign that her administration might not represent a dramatic departure from the trajectory of the current administration of Vincent C. Gray — whom she bested in the April Democratic primary.

Ms. Bowser, 42, who has represented Ward 4 on the D.C. Council since 2007, had faced questions during the campaign about her experience and her record a council member and about whether she was willing to significantly alter the course of the city.

At her first press conference after her win, Ms. Bowser was pressed on two challenges on the horizon — devising a scheme to regulate the use and sale of marijuana after voters overwhelming approved legalization of the drug Tuesday and how the city would move forward with a controversial plan to build a soccer stadium that came under questioning Wednesday afternoon.

Ms. Bowser said she would not want to see the marijuana initiative, which legalizes the use and possession of small amounts of the drug but not the sale, move forward without a scheme in place to tax and regulate it.

“We’ll turn our attention to it, look at the experiences of other states to make sure we’re not making mistakes that have already been made, and put a system in place that immediately will make sense of the process,” Ms. Bowser said. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t follow a regime similar to how we regulate and tax alcohol.”

A report released Wednesday afternoon on a planned deal to build a D.C. United soccer stadium found that the proposed land swaps would leave the city overspending by $25 million on the deal.

Ms. Bowser noted that she received the report on Monday and was “a little occupied” at the time, but that she plans to turn her attention to the report’s findings.

“We want D.C. United and I think we can get to a deal that works for the taxpayers,” she said, noting that she believes elements of the deal are problematic. “If we can get to that deal before Dec. 31, I think that’s preferable.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide