Kenyan McDuffie Embodies Hopes of Ward 5

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/22/2012, 2:39 p.m.

For Jaime Fearer, throwing her support behind Kenyan McDuffie was a slam dunk.

The 34-year-old Trinidad resident was one of dozens of friends, family, supporters and the curious who packed into the Wohlfarth Gallery in Brookland at a McDuffie meet-and-greet last month.

Fearer, a volunteer and proud supporter, is counting on McDuffie to restore honor and integrity to a position sullied by the misappropriation of public funds, and the admission and resignation of disgraced Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. She also expects McDuffie to use his considerable skills, expertise and experience to make a significant and meaningful difference to the ward and its residents.

"I supported him in 2010 when I met him and spoke with him. I was impressed with what I felt was his sincerity and knowledge of the issues affecting this ward," said Fearer, a community planner.

Fearer, who has lived in the ward since 2005, echoed the sentiments of a number of residents about some of the troubling issues affecting Ward 5.

"Economic development and jobs, as well as education and affordable housing are among the main issues," she said. "Changing demographics is an issue. We need someone who can bridge those gaps. We need someone with ethical integrity. Leadership needs to be put back on track. We also need someone who can come in on Day 1 and start the work."

Nellie Cureton, who also attended the Feb. 25 event in Northeast, is one resident who remains undecided. The retired teacher said she was on a fact-finding mission.

"I'm not familiar with him and I want to hear what he has to say," she said. "I want to get more insight into who he is and what he plans to do."

McDuffie is seeking to improve on his showing against Thomas in 2010. He is one of 15 candidates vying for the open seat following Thomas' resignation after he was indicted for theft of public funds. McDuffie considers Delano Hunter, Tim Day and Frank Wilds as those opponents "who have gotten the most traction."

A third-generation Washingtonian and native of Ward 5, McDuffie, 37, said he was raised by blue-collar parents who instilled in him the importance of hard work, perseverance, family, and whose examples spurred him to public service. He said he felt compelled to become a part of his ward's growth and renaissance. He said the ward is third behind Wards 7 and 8 with unemployment pegged at 14 percent. And he shared his vision of how to transform the sprawling ward.

"I'm not some fly-by-night candidate. I've been working for a while to improve my community. I'm a public servant. I'm not here to enrich my family or my friends," McDuffie said during a recent interview at San Antonio Bar and Grill in Brookland. "I'm absolutely confident that I can win. I am running a quality campaign based on integrity and accountability. People are disconnected, withdrawn and tired of the process."

His job, McDuffie explained, is to get Ward 5 residents reengaged in the political process and confident that the councilmember they elect will listen to their needs, give them a voice where the community voice has been muted and solve the many pressing problems wracking the ward.