Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles on the candidates running for D.C. mayor in 2014. Click here to read all the profiles.
Reta Jo Lewis has lived in the District for 35 years. A native of Statesboro, Georgia, she moved to D.C. to earn her master’s degree at American University.
Among the highlights of a career in public service that began in 1978, Lewis has worked as chief of staff at D.C.’s Department of Public Works, served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and was appointed lead ambassador for the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During her time traveling the world for the State Department, the first-time mayoral candidate says she would frequently talk about transparency and accountability, but could not reconcile those concepts with the place she lived. “I looked at my own hometown and realized that was not happening at home.”
In a recent interview with WNEW D.C. Bureau Chief Matt DelSignore, Lewis outlined her positions on several issues.
DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Lewis feels policymaking in D.C.’s public school system has become too politicized. “Schools have to put the focus back on learning,” she says. She suggests bolstering community partnerships to improve outcomes.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Lewis believes the District’s affordable housing shortage–and the related homeless crisis–is an infrastructure issue. She questions the current administration’s decision to save most of its record surplus instead of spending it on housing.
FIRE AND POLICE
“When the citizens lose confidence in you,” Lewis says, “you cannot govern your rank-and-file.” She would replace Fire and EMS Chief Ken Ellerbe but retain MPD Chief Cathy Lanier. Lewis would like to see strengthened partnerships between local and federal law enforcement.
While she backs the recently-passed legislation that would decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana, Lewis does not support full legalization; however, she would not stand in the way of a voter-driven referendum to tax-and-regulate sales.
DC UNITED STADIUM
“We are in an era now where we don’t have to give anything away.” Lewis acknowledges the opportunities a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point could create, but she withholds support of the proposed land swap involving the Reeves Center.
Lewis says owner Dan Snyder should change the Redskins’ name. As for the future of RFK Stadium and the team’s possible return, she’d like hear more public feedback before committing to a position.
Are there too many traffic cameras in the District. Lewis thinks so. “The residents are tired of Washington, D.C. becoming a ‘gotcha’ city.”
RUNNING AS AN UNDERDOG
Despite appearing near the bottom of most polls, Lewis says, “The only poll that matters is the one on April 1st.” She’s convinced voters are looking for a candidate who’s outside of the current political establishment, bringing new ideas to the Wilson Building.