Freshman looks to jump into local race

A fourth GW student is looking to edge into local politics this fall, running to serve as a neighborhood commissioner for the Mount Vernon Campus.

Freshman Jevin Hodge, who lives in Somers Hall on the Vern, is vying for a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission to oversee community concerns like construction and traffic in a post typically held by middle-aged working adults.

“I want to provide the ward and district with vision and opportunity from a younger perspective, from an up-and-coming leader,” Hodge said. “They have the wisdom, and I have the enthusiasm, and hopefully we can do something amazing.”

Hodge is the only GW student running for a seat in Ward 3, which also includes American University. He joins three other GW students who are candidates for the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 2.

Hodge said Penny Pagano, a local resident who currently holds the position, announced her write-in campaign for re-election Saturday.

Across the District, nine students are seeking positions on their respective advisory groups – the most students to ever run at one time. There are 40 advisory commissions across D.C., with about 8 to 10 elected commissioners.

Hodge, the only freshman in an ANC race, is running a write-in campaign because he did not live in the District 60 days before the ballot application was due – a requirement set by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

The public policy major and Tempe, Ariz. native said his political aspirations took root when he was a sophomore in high school, after he sat on his city’s youth advisory commission.

“I worked with the city government to implement policies that directly affected youth in the city,” Hodge said, adding that he plans to use that experience if elected to the ANC to help improve the local standings of GW and American alike.

Sophomore Peter Sacco and juniors Jackson Carnes and Patrick Kennedy are running for commissioner seats on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Carnes and Sacco are running unopposed in their districts, while Kennedy is facing 66-year-old David Lehrman, a five-term commissioner. Hodge said Kennedy persuaded him to run for a seat.

Commissioner Asher Corson won a seat on the commission in 2006 during his senior year and is the last student to hold a post. He is one of the University’s most vocal neighborhood critics.

Kennedy, the first GW student to declare a bid for the ANC, said Corson has been his mentor in local politics.

“I think his story is a very inspiring example of how a college student can reach out to the local community and have that embrace reciprocated,” Kennedy said.

Corson said the ANC gave him a neighborhood-wide platform to fight the University in the interests of students and permanent residents. Over the years, he has fought for the need of increased student space over commercial space in the neighborhood, and outright opposed the plans for The Avenue complex in its early stages.

The ANC, with neighborhood support, has historically pushed back on the University’s multimillion-dollar campus redevelopment plan to build up more than a dozen buildings on campus.

A six-year ANC veteran, Asher said he still feels that the University rarely listens to the community’s concerns and that it tries to spin its development as a positive force for the neighborhood, when it may not necessarily be.

He said he is “excited” for students to run in the election and hopes all four will make it onto the ANC, adding that he has spent time with and gotten to know Carnes and Kennedy over the past few months.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said GW “frequently meets” with the neighborhood’s residential bodies like the ANC and the Foggy Bottom Association – another sounding board group for locals with gripes about community issues . She added that “collaboration and transparency between GW and members of the community is one of the best avenues to build positive relationships with our neighbors.”

“This important feedback guides project development, and GW continues to take into consideration questions and concerns raised by members of the community in regard to GW projects,” Sherrard said.

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