Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kristin Szakos announces candidacy at public rally

On Valentine's Day, I formally announced my intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the City Council of Charlottesville. You can watch it here:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Kristin for Council

Who am I?

I’m a writer and editor, an activist, singer and animal lover, a wife and a mom. I have held a variety of positions with area nonprofits in the local area and co-written two books on community organizing. I most recently served as Volunteer Coordinator for the Obama campaign. My husband, Joe, is Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project, chair of the Region Ten Community Services Board and an avid softball player. We have two daughters, Anna, 19, and Maria, 17.

Why now?

Our family has lived in Charlottesville for 15 years, and Joe and I plan to live out the rest of our lives here. This community has been good to us. Our daughters have grown up in the Locust Grove neighborhood, attending the city schools. I served as president of the Burnley-Moran Elementary PTO when they were younger, and later sat on the Special Education Advisory Committee. The girls played in our city parks, danced at Fridays After Five, and competed on the city swim team and basketball leagues. Our older daughter volunteered with the city’s therapeutic recreation program, and our younger daughter has interned with the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad and the city Fire Department. My husband has played softball on our city fields, and we’ve all enjoyed walking our dogs on the trails along the river near our house. We drink city water, read by the light of city power, and take the city bus downtown to shop in city stores. My mother recently moved here from Washington, D.C.

My youngest daughter is graduating from Charlottesville High School in May, and I feel that this is the perfect time for me to start giving back to the community that has done so much for my family. I also recognize that there are many families for whom our city could be doing more. We need to talk about why there are still such great gaps in opportunity and education in Charlottesville - and work hard to close them.

The next few years will be a challenging and exciting time for the Charlottesville City Council. Budget constraints, the housing crisis, long-standing inequalities in income and opportunity - all these challenges demand a City Council that is creative and flexible in adapting new solutions to new realities. But it’s an exciting time as well; we need to be ready to respond to opportunities presented by economic stimulus spending, green energy development and a changing economy. I believe I have a lot to offer in the face of these challenges and opportunities.

Why me?

As a journalist, I am trained to look at every angle of an issue. My job is to synthesize what I learn about a wide variety of issues in order to make them understandable to everyone. After I earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, I worked for a short time for the Associated Press, but quickly discovered that my heart lay in local communities. I left the AP to become a reporter at the Appalachian News-Express, a small town newspaper in Kentucky. There, I was able to have a real impact on the community with my work – recognizing unsung community heroes, exposing illegal coalmines, calling attention to the need for services in rural areas.

Since then, I have worked for small journals and nonprofit organizations, trying to use my gifts to make the world a little better. I’ve learned about and written about national and local budgets, environmental issues, conflicts over race and class, and the efforts of ordinary Americans to make their communities better.

During the past two years, I immersed myself for the first time in national politics, serving as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Obama campaign. I helped to build an active volunteer force of more than 7,000 people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and worked hard to make sure everyone had a role and a voice in the campaign. I was elected to represent the Fifth Congressional District as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Most recently, I served as statewide coordinator for the National Day of Service sponsored by the Obama inaugural committee.

Barack Obama expressed the political sentiments that I had always felt: that we must act more out of hope than of fear; that we need new solutions to our problems – while holding to the old values of responsibility and respect; that government should be open and transparent to all; and that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

I hope to carry that spirit with me into the City Council.

I am running in the May primary for the Democratic nomination. I hope you will help me. I will be posting positions on particular issues facing the Council, as well as answers to your questions, on this site. In the meantime, if you would like to help, or have questions, please e-mail me at k.szakos@embarqmail.com.