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Meet the candidate: Cynthia Newbille

10/25/2009 10:30 AM by

While Cynthia Newbille first came onto many folks’ radar last January when her name was put forth for consideration for appointment to the interim City Council 7th District seat, she has been directly connected to and serving the East End for a good while. It is this experience that is both Newbille’s greatest asset and a potential liability.

Ms.Newbille was raised in Whitcomb Court and attended her neighborhood schools: Whitcomb Elementary, the then-Mosby Middle School, and Armstrong High School (on 31st Street). It is her own experience growing up in the area that comes through when she talks about the need to “fully fund public education”. She describes a need to attract and retain staff for our schools that see the youth as the promise that they are, that sees kids as “at promise” instead of at risk. She calls for our public schools to be state of the art and “not just for technology” but in the curriculum, languages offered, and with fully stocked libraries.

After Armstrong, Newbille earned a bachelor’s in psychology/linguistics and a master’s in psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is due to complete her doctorate in public policy at VCU in early 2010.

Her professional career has taken her to California, Georgia, and back again. In the early 1990s, Ms.Newbille served as the executive Director of the National Black Women’s Health Project out of Atlanta, Georgia. Before that, she was director of the Head Start Program at Charles Drew University in Compton, California. A 1991 Muncie Times piece on Ms.Newbille says that several of the programs established by Ms.Newbille at Head Start “gained national attention because of their success”, including programs which enlisted parents in the co-managemet of various Head Start activities and the management of the Parent Training Center which offered job-training to low-income parents.

Newbille later moved back to Richmond and served as chief of staff to then-City Manager Calvin D. Jamison and managed the city’s East District Initiative. She has most recently served as the acting executive director of the United Way’s Family Resource Center on 24th Street.

When asked for specific examples of her accomplishment in the East End, Newbille cites success in getting the Capital Area Health Network funded and growing. At the time known as the East End Health Center, the CAHN was defunded and in peril. Newbille worked with Congressman Bobby Scott, citizens, and civic associations to renew funding for the center (which now has 4 locations in the region). Newbille also cites putting together Neighborhoods in Bloom as a collaborative process in which she played a part. She describes the successful neighborhood rebuilding program as a collaborative partnership which leveraged public and private resources, and included much citizen involvement.

Continuing the theme of collaboration and inclusiveness, Newbille says that if elected she would convene a group of civic associations, business representatives, and other stakeholders to foster a “strategic, collaborative, inclusive” process to address the variety of issues and opportunities in the East End.

“Any project that would preclude the view and/or public access to that valuable resource is not the project for us to consider.”

Newbille’s campaign literature focusses on the social needs of the district, saying that she is for funding education, public safety, affordable housing, and community health programs. Her card also states that she supports helping small businesses & supporting economic development.

Newbille cites the growth of the 25th Street corridor as an important goal, and towards the end of our conversation makes a point of bringing up Echo Harbor as an inappropriate development. At the CHA’s Candidate Forum at Robinson Theater, she called the James River “one of our incredible, invaluable natural resources” and stated the importance of both the view from Libby Hill and public access to the river, saying that “any project that would preclude the view and/or public access to that valuable resource is not the project for us to consider.”

Ms.Newbille was thrust into the spotlight in January when she stepped forward to be considered for appointment to the City Council 7th District seat. Her choice was criticized as political maneuvering by other politicians, due in no large part to the fact that Ms.Newbille only moved into the district to be eligible for the appointment. As this became controversial, Ms.Newbille removed herself from consideration for the appointment.

Of the appoint flap, Ms.Newbille offers an understanding and less cynical take. Having been raised and educated in the community, and working professionally in the community, she says that she sees the council seat as “an opportunity to serve in a different way, at a different level”. She says that, alongside her years of connection and service in the neighborhood, her moving should be seen as a sign of commitment to the opportunity to serve, that “this is about service in a community that I grew up in”.

A piece in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch says that “other candidates are trying to turn Newbille’s prominent supporters and experience into liabilities” and quotes Clarence Kenney as saying “She’s been in a position to do things, and she hasn’t done very much. […] We need to cut off that little power that Henry Marsh has had since he left office, because our district has gone down.” In the article, Newbille says “she is pleased to have the support of McQuinn, Marsh and others but insisted she would carve her own niche by collaborating with civic groups and others to address crime, housing, school performance and other issues.”

Cynthia Newbille has a website at http://newbilleforcitycouncil-7th.com/.

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