The Corner Forum
Saturday, March 15, 2003
Issue #23

ANC Commissioner Jessica Ward

Jessica Ward was elected in November to be commissioner for Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) single member district 6A06, which covers the northern half of the Corner Forum area. Within the Corner Forum area, Ms. Ward represents the residents on the 500 block of 13th Street, on Emerald Street, and on the even side of E Street. Ms. Ward serves as the chairwoman of the ANC's Alcohol Beverage Licensing and Public Safety Committee. She wrote the article that follows in response to questions asked by Sharon Cochran (1300 block of Emerald Street). Ms. Ward can be reached at 396-3193 or jward.anc@verizon.net.

By Jessica Ward, 1310 G St. NE

I am the youngest of three daughters of a career naval officer. I grew up in Northern Virginia during my high school days, and attended James Madison University. In 1982, I graduated with a commission as an Army Reserve officer.

After three years of traveling and working in Germany for the Department of the Army as a personal property quality control inspector, I came back to Virginia. Although I loved Europe, I felt very isolated. The bombings of U.S. facilities and personnel had just started, and so the thought of driving around in a military vehicle became a real concern. I wanted to be closer to my family, so I came back to Northern Virginia.

I was offered a great opportunity to manage a gourmet store in Old Town, Alexandria. The store had a "Made in Virginia" product line, so I learned a lot about the great Virginia specialty foods and wines. Much of my "spare" time was spent catering and doing all the chores needed to run a successful small business. After years of seven-day workweeks and a hectic life, I made a career change from the food industry into the delivery industry.

During the '90s, I was a delivery driver for both United Parcel Service and Federal Express. I was promoted to a management position with UPS and, as a Metro regional facilitator, I covered much of the area outside the city. But what enticed me to become a resident of the District was meeting my partner. When I moved into D.C., I learned to appreciate the urban environment. We first rented over by Old Naval Hospital, on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. In 1998, we purchased a beautiful 100-year-old house near H Street NE, where we still live today with two dogs and two cats.

After an unfortunate auto accident, resulting in the need for neck surgery, I had to end my career of lifting 70-pound computer boxes. For rehabilitation strengthening, I started a walking routine. I walked and walked and walked some more. Often for miles, I walked with my two dogs in tow.

I met many people during these treks. The children from North Lincoln Park called me the "Dog Lady." Parents would watch in horror when their kids would race toward these two big black dogs. Whichever child reached me first would ask, "Do they bite?" I'd answer, "No, not unless you bite first!" I could barely get out a "thank you" for asking first if my dogs were friendly, before they would grab hold of the leashes. They would proudly proceed to lead the big, "biting" dogs down past Momma to the end of the block.

At the corner, "Pepper" would do a trick for them. The kids' favorite was for Pepper to shake their hands with his paw. For certain blocks, it turned into a great tradition. Unfortunately, kidney failure took Pepper's life unexpectedly. I still have a reason to get out on my walks. With Cody still in tow, I now have a young Labrador named "Taylor" to teach how to heel. I believe now the tricks are played on me. Training this energetic Lab has been a challenge!

I decided to use my time to volunteer, and I took my knowledge of the streets and became a community activist. In 2002, I was elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the new ANC 6A06. I bring to the table my strong customer relations background and experience in small business management. I use much of my energy to try to create an awareness of unacceptable practices and a heightened social intolerance for public drinking and the baggage that goes with that behavior.

With a focused vision for demanding more responsibly managed ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control Board] outlets, I found an ally in Earle Rands. Earle's persistence and unwavering dedication inspired me. I knew immediately that the reason for his vision was to help create a prosperous and vibrant H Street community. My dear friend Earle has since passed on into a better world, and I dearly miss him. However, I still hear his marching tunes in the effort to help residents have a better quality of life.

Success has come in small increments to our neighborhood. There are fewer abandoned buildings and neglected autos parked on yards and streets. We enjoy re-paved streets with new sidewalks and lighting. My pledge now, as a newly elected commissioner, is to work for the betterment of the whole community.

Now that you know a little about me, I would love to know about your community. If you see me while I am on my dog walks and am in your community, please stop me and introduce yourself.

Remember, all things happen for a reason. §