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Candidate Essay: Walter Tejada

Last week we asked the three candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Two County Board seats are up for election this year.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent J. Walter Tejada (D):

My name is Walter Tejada and I am proud to call Arlington my hometown.  I am honored to have served you on the Arlington County Board over the last eight years.  We have a great community in which we enjoy a high quality of life.  We are a safe community.  We have a low real estate tax rate, the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia, and great schools. We are an award-winning model for smart growth.

Like one quarter of Arlington’s population today, I was born in another country; in my case, El Salvador.  I came to the United States at age 13, and quickly adapted to a new culture and language.  In 1992 I settled in my new hometown, Arlington County.  Right away I became involved in our civic life to try to make a difference, and I haven’t stopped.  I proudly served the community in many civic roles before joining the Board in 2003.

When elected, my mission was to continue being a good steward of our county government while making my own contributions to improving our community.  My philosophy is rooted in the principles of social and economic justice, and I believe my achievements in the last eight years reflect this commitment.  Among my proudest achievements are leading the way to:

  • setting up the Community Volunteer Network  to help young adults engage in our civic life and become the next generation of leaders;
  • establishing the Office of Public Defender for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, ensuring legal representation for indigent residents;
  • creating the Arlington Non-Profit Assistance Program to strengthen our non-profit organizations;
  • launching FitArlington, to promote a culture of fitness and to encourage healthy living;
  • initiating the Diversity Dialogues, which bring Arlingtonians together to discuss meaningful issues, and which has become an important tool in community conversations.

If I have the privilege of being elected once again, I will continue to work on issues of critical importance to the success of our community, including:

  • Fiscal sustainability – While I’m proud that in each of the eight years I have been in office Arlington has received a triple AAA bond rating, we must continue to maintain our fiscal health through wise investment, a responsible capital improvement plan, and careful management of our resources while maintaining a safety net for our most vulnerable neighbors.
  • Affordable housing – One of the most compelling issues in Arlington today is affordable housing.  While we are grateful for our economic success, we can’t let that success turn away valuable members of our community through rising home prices and rents.  I will continue my priority to increase the number of affordable housing units in the county.
  • Promoting healthy living – I want to continue to make Arlington a healthy community, a place where there is easy access to parks, bike trails, walkable neighborhoods and ample sources of locally-grown fresh foods.
  • Maintaining a caring and inclusive community – Virginia is known as the cradle of liberty, yet there are many who seek to move us back to a less welcoming era.  Thankfully, here in our hometown we set an example for the rest of the state in creating a welcoming community.  I will continue to promote our values of unity and social justice, and speak up for those who work hard every day for our community.

There are of course many other issues we will confront in the next four years to which I will dedicate time and energy, such as:

  • Pursuing greater environmental sustainability
  • Preserving and enhancing open space
  • Implementing our community energy plan

Working together for all of Arlington, I look forward to the years ahead, hearing your ideas, and joining efforts toward our shared goals.  I ask for your support and for your vote, not only for me but also for my running mate Mary Hynes, on November 8.  Working together, we can continue to ensure that our hometown is a world class community for all.

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