The first candidate to file to run in what could be a large field for the 2018 Alexandria City Council elections is a former chairman of the local Democratic Party and past chair of the Chamber of Commerce.
Dak Hardwick, 41, who will announce his candidacy Thursday, said in an interview he plans a business-friendly campaign oriented toward growing the city's revenue beyond local property taxes.
All six at-large council seats and the mayor's position are up for election next year.
As of now, one incumbent — council member Timothy Lovain — has said he will not seek reelection. Vice Mayor Justin Wilson (D), who is widely expected to challenge Mayor Allison Silberberg in the 2018 Democratic primary, said Wednesday that he will not make any announcement until after this year's November elections.
Alexandria is traditionally a Democratic town, which makes the June 12 party primary paramount for many office-seekers. Republicans have won seats on the council as recently as 2009, and the local GOP chairman, Sean Lenehan, said the party plans to field a slate for council and mayor later this year or early next year.
"I'm prepared for a lot [of people] to run," said John Taylor Chapman, a two-term council member who plans to run for reelection. "Every election is tough, and we're going to have to validate the things we've done."
The city government has navigated numerous contentious debates over the last year, raising property taxes and fees and preparing for higher storm water and sewage costs, driven by the state-ordered replacement of the combined sewer system in parts of Old Town.
Schools supporters want the city to spend more than the current one-third of the budget on education; recreation advocates are upset about the decision to not expand Chinquapin pool; business owners are frustrated about the Old Town Business Improvement District proposal that was shelved; and myriad other residents are concerned over hot-button issues such as government debt, affordable housing and what some see as overdevelopment.
Hardwick, assistant vice president for international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, said his seven years on the city's budget committee prepared him to understand "where the revenue challenges are."
"We've underinvested in our infrastructure for 20 years, and that bill is coming due," Hardwick said. "We have to find additional ways to grow our economy."
Hardwick, a resident of the West End of Alexandria, said the council should listen more to the advice of its 80 appointed committees. If elected, he said, he plans to push for longer-term planning at the council and for improving public input before decisions are made.