It was the 18th community meeting, the next-to-last whistle stop on a carefully laid out circuit of meeting halls, school auditoriums and churches designed to take D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis and her road show into each of the 19 voting precincts of Ward 4.
The two-dozen people who came to Greater St. Paul Baptist Church off New Hampshire Avenue the other night heard Jarvis deliver a mixture of self-congratualtions, opinion on local and national issues and old-fashioned promises to help constituents with their individual problems.
Big-boned and nearly six feet tall, Jarvis dominated the tiny church with its red-curtained windows and two neat rows of blond pews as she touted her ability to grease the bureaucracy's wheels. Sidewalk crumbling? We'll see what we can do. Wind blew down a tree limb? Give us a call and we'll get it taken care of.
An aide sat nearby -- at a table crammed with press releases and brochures from the District Building -- taking down names, addresses, phone numbers.
A scientist by profession, Jarvis has approached D.C. politics systematically. So far, it has paid off: Jarvis, who won the Ward 4 council seat in May 1979 over 15 other candidates, is unopposed in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary to retain the seat.
"There's no serious dissatisfaction with the way she's been handling the job," said Barry Campbell, chairman of the ward's Democratic organization. Campbell was one of the candidates who lost to Jarvis last year and said he considered another try but decided against it."She's bright and a quick study," he said. "There's not enough there to mount a credible challenge."
The ward, which includes the far northern part of the city from Rock Creek Park east to Catholic University and the B & O railroad tracks usually is one of the most politically contentious in the city. This year, a host of potential challengers (like Campbell) shied away.
"Charlene has legitimately established herself as the political leadership in that ward." said former City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who lives in Ward 4. "Obviously, a lot of people just saw the handwriting on the wall."
Some observers give Jarvis credit for delivering on the promises she makes.
Joseph B. Carter, alternate Democratic National Committeeman and a longtime activist in the ward, worked against Jarvis in 1979. This year, he is chairman of her campaign committee.
"Some people I know had a problem on their block with kids hanging around and using drugs," Carter said. "I called Charlene about it, and it was dealt with." Carter said police made more visits to the neighborhood, and the drug users went away. "When you call on Monday and the problem is taken care of on Wednesday, that's pretty good."
In a ward that includes the status-conscious, upper-middle class Gold Coast neighborhood. Jarvis is enhanced by the fact that she possesses not one but two of the bluest-chip surnames in black Washington.
Her father, Dr. Charles Drew, was a pioneering surgeon and researcher whose work made possible the modern blood bank. The family of her husband, Ernest Jarvis, owns a long established funeral home, W. Ernest Jarvis Co. eInc.
"People up here like to see long broad and strong roots -- Washington roots," Campbell said. "Its not so much your potential or actual worth, but who went before you."
In the last year's campaign, Jarvis' radio advertising heavily emphasized her family ties, "My father made a tremendous contribution, and in the campaign that may have helped," she acknowledged in a recent interview.
The launching of Jarvis' political career was also helped by the current council chairman, Arrington Dixon, a neighbor and politcal ally. The Ward 4 council seat won by Jarvis last year was created when Dixon won election in 1978 as Council chairman. He backed political neophyte Jarvis as his Ward 4 replacement, making her the candidate to beat.
Dixon and Jarvis are still allies on the council, though now, with a developing political base of her own, Jarvis says that she and Dixon "were never close personal friends, though we were political friends. It was always Charlene Jarvis on her own."
Friends say Jarvis is ambitious and would like to run for major, council chairman or nonvoting delegate to Congress, perhaps as early as 1982. "My intention is to continue to develop as a strong political force in the city." Jarvis says. "I'm looking ahead. Ward 4 is a strong political base." Of the city's top elected officials, seven live in Ward 4.
Some political activists in the ward think that both Dixon and Mayor Marion Barry may be vulnerable in 1982. Sources close to Jarvis say she wants to play a role in those contests, either as a candidate or as a broker of the ward's support. Ward 4 traditionally turns out the largest number of Democratic voters in the city. Barry lost the ward in 1978, and some say he is still not popular there.
Jarvis, 39, was born in Freedman's Hospital -- now Howard University Hospital -- where her father was chief of surgery. She holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Maryland.
Before she entered politics. Jarvis spent her days in laboratories at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda probing and dissecting the brains of monkeys. She is separated from her husband and has two sons -- one attending high school in Florida, where his father lives, and the other recently graduated from high school in suburban Maryland and now preparing to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta.
So far, she has raised about $8,000 in campaign funds -- on the theory, according to her campaign manager and close friend, attorney Woodrow Boggs, that no large war chest is needed for this race.
She has been endorsed by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and many of her positions have found favor within the city's business community -- like her stand in favor of legislation earlier this year to restrict worker's compensation benefits.
"I really care about what's going on, and I'm willing to work hard." She says. "People can't say I haven't worked, they can't say I've taken extremist positions. I am indefatigable, it is genetic."
Israel Lopez, a retired D.C. government worker, is unopposed for the Republican nomination for the Ward 4 council seat. Lopez has been out of the country recently and could not be reached for comment.