For senior, taking local seat means serving lifelong neighbors

Media Credit: Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

Senior Markus Batchelor won a seat on one of Ward 8’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, located in Southeast D.C. Batchelor, a D.C. native, ran on a platform that included helping residents find affordable housing.

Southeast-bred senior Markus Batchelor wants to make sure his lifelong neighbors have a place at the table.

Batchelor was elected last week to serve on one of Ward 8’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, representing a part of Southeast D.C. that’s facing re-development and one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

He ran on a platform to find new housing for the residents of Berry Farm, one of the first settlements for former slaves after emancipation. He said the city will soon tear down the housing project building, and that his first goal is to make sure those people have a place to stay.

“My largest responsibility is making sure current residents are included and not displaced,” he said.

He added that he’s also focused on the new St. Elizabeth’s development, a complex in Southeast D.C. that will include housing, office space and a shopping center, which he said will “transform the community.”

Batchelor, who is taking a semester off and living at home, said he chose to run for a spot on the ANC because he brings multiple perspectives to the group as someone who has lived in Ward 8, the Mount Vernon Campus and Foggy Bottom.

ANCs, advisory boards assigned to a section of each of the city’s eight wards, listen to neighbors’ complaints about issues like noise, trash and construction. Each commissioner represents a portion of the neighborhood, and will often work closely with residents to pass their concerns on to city agencies.

Batchelor, who was born and raised in D.C., said many of the skills he’ll use in the next two years, like the ability to form connections with a diverse constituency, come from what he learned as a Student Association senator his sophomore year at GW.

He said during his time as a senator, he looked to give multicultural student organizations a “fair share” when the SA doled out money for events. As vice chair of the student life committee, he said he worked closely with then-SA President Ashwin Narla.

“I was excited to be in the middle of the fight for more student space on campus,” he said.

But Batchelor’s got his start in local politics long before his SA senate stint. His freshmen year of college, Batchelor became the national president of the D.C. Statehood Student Association, a group that advocates for making the District the nation’s 51st state.

In April 2012, Batchelor and three other GW students were arrested after sitting in the middle of an intersection near the Capitol building during a demonstration.

Batchelor said he was able to win on Election Day because of the strong ties he’s made in the community and the support of some of his friends at GW, who donated over $1,000 to his campaign. Batchelor won the election with 48 percent of the vote, a victory of more than 8 percentage points over his opponent.

In 2011, Batchelor was one of nine students to receive the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, which gives D.C. natives full rides to attend GW.

Kheri Freeman, the president of the Black Student Union, said she became friends with Batchelor during their freshman year, after bonding over their love of politics. Freeman, who donated $25 to Batchelor’s campaign, said Batchelor’s strengths as a commissioner will come from living in the area for years.

“He really knows what the problems are and the things that need to be handled immediately,” she said. “He’s very proactive and passionate.”

After serving as an SA senator, Batchelor went on to work on the Ward 8 redistricting committee.

L. Yvonne Moore, who spent 20 years as a commissioner on another Ward 8 ANC, worked with Batchelor on the committee, and called Batchelor “a very community-minded and civic-minded person.”

“I hope that one day he would even think about running for a Council seat,” she said.

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