D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose said yesterday that she will not seek reelection, citing her need to devote more time to family and her battle with multiple sclerosis.
"I am not running because it is difficult to deal with a complicated disease and a complicated job," Ambrose said in a telephone interview. "I don't flatter myself thinking that the city will fall apart without my presence."
Ambrose (D), whose doctors diagnosed her multiple sclerosis six years ago, represents Ward 6. It covers Capitol Hill and parts of downtown, Northeast and Southeast, including the waterfront area where the new Washington Nationals stadium is slated to be built.
As chairman of the council's Committee on Economic Development, Ambrose is a central player in the city's major development projects. She said that during her remaining year on the council, she will focus on the baseball stadium and on development at the old Washington Convention Center site downtown.
Ambrose and her committee also are involved in the creation of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and efforts to redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center in Southeast.
"She chairs a key committee, Economic Development," said council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7). "Her experience will be missed."
Gray said her retirement was long expected. "I don't think it's a shock to anyone," he said.
Ambrose said she still has enough energy and determination to continue her work.
"I'm close friends with enough members of the council that I think I can still have my oar in the water," she said.
Ambrose won a 1997 special election to replace Harold Brazil (D), who gave up the Ward 6 seat after winning an at-large spot on the council.
Ambrose campaigned on the experience she gained during nearly 20 years of working for former council members Betty Ann Kane and John Ray. She also touted her community service in Capitol Hill, where she has lived for 30 years.
She was reelected in 1998 and 2002.
The prospect of Ambrose's retirement had already drawn several candidates for the Ward 6 seat. Tommy Wells, a school board member and Ambrose ally, and Keith Perry, who ran against Ambrose four years ago, each said they will run for the Ward 6 seat.
Ambrose said she expects more announcements.
"When I ran [in 1997], there were 12 people in the race, so I would look for it to be a crowded field," she said.
Her retirement will add to the scope of anticipated changes on the council next year. Nine of the 13 members are running for higher office or reelection.
Ambrose, 66, said she has been blessed with six grandchildren and another on the way. The lure of traveling and spending time with family is appealing, she said.
"I have a chronic, progressive disease, and it's not going away," she said last month.
She listed as notable accomplishments rewriting of the city's insurance and alcohol laws and creating the Anacostia Waterfront Corp.
"I'm most proud of the work I've done for Ward 6, and sometimes it has been keeping bad things from happening as much as doing good things," she said.
Ambrose has never been a natural back-slapping politician, and she has her share of opponents in Ward 6. She weathered two recall attempts, including one this year.
Some constituents were unhappy with her pro-development decisions and votes, including her support for a publicly built stadium for the Nationals.
Raymond Blanks, a Lincoln Park Democratic activist, said Ambrose was out of touch with the ward when she supported the baseball stadium. He said he hopes her replacement will more closely follow community sentiment.
"It gives us an opportunity to secure a representative who is more in touch with the community and who has the energy to provide leadership," he said.
Others praised Ambrose's contributions.
Jan Eichhorn, president of Ward 6 Democrats, said Ambrose's legacy "is the tremendous amount of economic development that occurred or reached final planning stages under her watch. I enjoy the many restaurants now on Barracks Row, for example. Her priorities are often different from mine, but she has always been available to listen and consider another point of view."