Progressive Voice: Remembering Ellen Bozman

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Larry RobertsThe Arlington we enjoy today is a county where population is growing, our successful schools are attracting many more children, single family homes in our suburban neighborhoods are in high demand, we have the highest percentage of millennials in the country, our finances are rated among the best in America by rating agencies, and we enjoy a range of housing, transportation, and recreational choices due to wise investments by past generations of county leaders.

While we have challenges facing our commercial sector, in housing affordability across many income levels, and meeting the needs of our schools, we are a success by almost any measure.

We did not achieve this success by chance. It is due to visionary leadership driven by commitments to core values and investments in our future. There is no better example of such visionary leadership than Ellen Bozman, who served Arlington for 24 years on the County Board, on various regional organizations, and in civic groups.

Leaders like Ellen knew the importance of a vibrant commercial sector that reduces reliance on homeowner taxes, transit oriented development, providing opportunities for those in need, and a focus on quality of life.

I was reminded of Ellen’s contributions on a recent walk through Ballston.

There, amidst restaurants, hotels, office buildings, the Virginia Tech Research Center, retail outlets and residences, I found Ellen’s Trace. The trace is an urban park that is a great spot for pedestrians to relax and consider Arlington’s past, present and future.

You can find Ellen’s Trace between 800 N. Glebe Road (a distinctive building that features a diamond canopy and rounded glass façade reminiscent of its predecessor Bob Peck Chevrolet) and The Jordan, which provides 90 units of affordable housing. Such a joint project combining commercial sector success with housing affordability was consistent with Ellen’s approach.

Ellen had the gift to see Arlington for what it could be, and worked hard to make that vision happen. She maximized her influence through her ability to work with others to forge compromises and build partnerships within Arlington and across the region.

The commemorative markers in Ellen’s Trace describe Ellen Bozman’s contributions in ways that capture her well:

Affordable Housing: Ellen Bozman believed the opportunity to live in Arlington should be available to all. She was a strong advocate for affordable housing and worked hard to preserve and produce housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents. 

Health and Welfare: Ellen Bozman worked tirelessly to protect and care for the most vulnerable in the community. In the 1960s, she pioneered Arlington’s extended day program for children of working parents. She also championed day care for the frail elderly and the creation of Arlington’s first nursing homes.

Human Rights: Ellen Bozman fought hard for the rights of others. In the 1950s, she worked to eliminate school segregation in Virginia and provided support to the families of the first black children to enter a desegregated school in Arlington.

Local Government: Ellen Bozman was deeply committed to public service. An inspiration to many, she held numerous leadership roles, including 24 years on the Arlington County Board (1974-1997). She believed government should be progressive, open, inclusive, and improve the lives of others. 

Urban Development: Ellen Bozman was dedicated to helping Arlington grow into an exemplary urban living environment. In the 1970s, she helped create Arlington’s long-range urban development plan, including maximizing the Metro corridor and ensuring the community’s high quality of life.

As we confront issues of today, I believe there remains great value in remembering how we met the challenges of the past. We did so by focusing more on core values than core services, by placing a higher value on governing than politics, by building community consensus through dialogue and mutual respect, by understanding the link between economic development investments and generating the resources necessary for our schools and social services, and keeping in mind the importance of our county playing a key role in the region and the Commonwealth if we are to remain a strong and vibrant community.

I hope you will visit Ellen’s Trace, consider Ellen Bozman’s contributions, and reflect on what Arlington has been and can be.

Larry Roberts is an attorney. He served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond and as Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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