Alas, Amy Hemingway is leaving ANC 4D... here's what it takes to be an effective commissioner according to "ANC Amy"

 Amy Hemingway, ANC 4D06 Commissioner poses at the Petworth mural.

Amy Hemingway, ANC 4D06 Commissioner poses at the Petworth mural.

by Tamar Lechter

After serving as a Petworth Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for one term, Amy Hemingway will be pursuing exciting overseas opportunities with her family, leaving a vacancy in the upcoming election. The 4D06 single member district covers Sherman Circle and adjacent streets to the North and West. 

I sat down with Amy to find out what it takes to be an ANC commissioner in Petworth and why someone might be interested in taking on this volunteer role.

 
Interested candidates in the 4D06 seat must pick up a nomination petition, in person, from the Board of Elections (located at 1015 Half Street SE in suite 750) beginning Monday, July 9, and will then have until 5pm on Wednesday, August 8th, to return the petitions with at least 25 signatures from neighbors residing in their same district. Candidates must also fill out a “Declaration of Candidacy” by the August 8 deadline. The election will take place on Election Day, November 6th. New ANC Commissioners will be sworn in January 2, 2019. For more information, visit the Board of Elections website.

*There is currently a petition circulating to change the dates, due to many people being out of town for vacation. The petition requests that the date to pick up the nomination petition be changed to June 15th to allow for more time. Please check the Board of Elections website for an update on this issue.

Amy’s own journey to the ANC began with a passion for policy. “I had this urban studies class in undergrad where we studied urban public policy… everything applicable to cities. Whether it was urban design, or economic development, health issues, education, I just loved the policy side of things.” After graduating, Amy worked for Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, and went on to complete a master’s degree in public policy.

But beyond the policy and politics, Amy believes the most important role of the ANC commissioner is facilitating dialogue and making sure that all voices are being heard.

“In 2016, I was feeling really disappointed in the country, where the world was, where the dialogue was. At the time I was feeling that way, someone came to me and asked if I would be interested in running for ANC… I did some research and I realized that the ANC’s greatest endeavor is really to help get voices heard. There’s so much noise and there are so many problems to solve. There’s so much going on that even with a councilmember who is very responsive, they can’t tackle everything.”

I asked Amy which characteristics and skills she thought were most relevant and helpful for a person considering running for ANC commissioner.

At an ANC 4D meeting in 2017.

Be resourceful and self-sufficient. “ANC does not have a grand structure and there’s not a repository of shared information. Being resourceful and knowing who to ask and remembering that another ward or district may have experienced this before you, so maybe there’s a precedent. Being resourceful in the community itself is important as well. You can’t be an expert at everything.”

For Amy, being resourceful was vital in her work with neighborhood water issues. She reached out to water experts, contacts at local organizations, and read everything she could get her hands on in order to understand and move forward on the water issues of the area. These issues included the spike in water bills last summer due to the turn-over of new water meters, charges due to the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC), and drainage and flooding issues. Amy took on this issue proactively, listening to neighbors, spearheading a water forum, and participating in raising awareness of the issue with Councilmember Brandon Todd. This led to actual site visits with DC Water and residents in the area this May, and a few new bills proposed by Councilmember Todd.

Be a convener. “Bring all the right people to the table to have conversations and dialogue. You can’t really have dialogue if you have all people saying the same thing. There needs to be opposing voices, supporting voices, neutral people and everybody in between.”

Be reliable.  In addition to being proactive, Amy emphasized that reliability and responsiveness are key to any successful ANC commissioner, and that past commissioners had been less responsive, which led neighbors to suggest she run. “When a resident calls you, responding quickly and doing what you say you’re going to do is important.”  Also, running means being committed to the position for two years. 

Be a connector. A commissioner needs to understand that they can’t solve every problem and that some issues need to go up the chain. Knowing when to connect someone to the right contact, whether it’s at the Councilmember’s office or the Mayor’s office can be another way to address community needs and ensure that people feel heard and supported. Taking the time to develop relationships with the contacts at constituent services and the Mayor’s office is important as well. “I had to build a relationship with them, so they would actually respond to my calls.”

Be forward looking while respecting the past. “This is such an historic neighborhood and an increasingly diverse neighborhood. Ensuring that what you’re doing is not polarizing, but rather bringing people together. Respecting the past while working to make progress.”

Enjoying the new benches in Sherman Circle.

Amy’s biggest take-away from her time as ANC commissioner has been understanding that progress is not defined in the same way by all people. This issue was made clear as she worked to bring benches back to Sherman Circle, which was met with varying responses, both positive and negative. Anyone coming into the role should understand that progress looks different to different stakeholders and not to assume that everyone will see an issue in the same way.

Finally, I asked Amy what she will miss most about the position and the neighborhood. She didn’t hesitate. “I’m going to miss the people.” While interviewing her at Lulabelle on a weekday, I was struck that she knew every single person who walked in the door. Between interview questions, she paused to greet everyone with a smile. I have no doubt that the neighborhood will miss her as well.

What do you look for in an ANC Commissioner?

“I am looking for an ANC Commissioner who will continue to foster community in our neighborhood and advocate for residents on priority issues, including safety and education. As co-President of the West Education Campus Parent, School, Community Organization [PSCO], one of the DCPS zoned neighborhood schools for ANC 4D06 residents, I look forward to engaging the Commissioner in the exciting things happening at the school, and finding ways for our community to partner with our neighborhood schools.”
 - Erica Mongelli, Emerson St.
 

“Since I’m a full-time artist, I would really love to see more of an arts support within the ANC and to have some representation for that. I’ve also been looking into running for ANC just for supporting the local artists and all the art events that we have here and just having a voice for that. Again, as an artist, I would really like to see more of that come to fruition.”
- Sara Herrera, Buchanan St.
 

“I want an ANC Commissioner that is involved and connected to the neighborhood and is not just representing a single issue or has a single point of view. We’ve had that in the past and it becomes very divisive. I’m also looking for someone who understands how hard it is to be an ANC Commissioner, the time commitment, and the stress – the wear and tear on you when people demand services. I’m looking for someone who understands that and is prepared for that.”
- Carol Herwig, Upshur St

If you’re not sure which Commissioner serves your address, you can use this handy locator tool. Just plug in your address, an intersection, or landmark and find out.

Tamar Lechter

Tamar is a Leadership Coach, living in the Crestwood neighborhood with her husband and two daughters. She works with individuals and organizations in DC to uncover and maximize their strengths. She loves writing and highlighting women business owners. You can read her blog posts and learn more about her at tamarlechter.com

In her down time, Tamar loves cooking, crosswords, rocking out to 80s music, and playing volleyball. 



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