ASHVILLE PARK — As a college professor, each term I am grateful for the chance to open minds and to help others think critically about the world around them. This makes my work enjoyable and fulfilling. Still, the most important aspect of my work and life is the reward of personal growth through service. This is why I ran for the Princess Anne District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council last year.
Evidence of my passion for service can be seen in my campaign for public office. In April 2018, several community members from different areas of the city came to me and asked me to run for the Princess Anne District seat.
At the time, I was finishing my term as the district’s representative on the Virginia Beach Planning Commission and my final year as a member of the Transition Area Citizens Advisory Committee. I also was serving, as I still am, as a member of the Virginia Beach 2040 Vision to Action Community Coalition. In these roles, I have represented both Saint Leo University and my distinct area of the city.
My work on these committees allowed me to develop in-depth knowledge of the city’s plans and the diversity of thought among the residents regarding the city’s future. It also moved me to consider how I might do more to make a positive difference.
I decided to run for city office because I wanted to serve those who wanted me to serve. I, too, believed I could make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of the city. It was a long, arduous campaign – April to November – during which time I learned much about our political process and contributed a great deal of writing to convey my thoughts on the future of the region. That writing was shared with the public via my campaign webpage and blog.
In those writings, I strived to convey who I am as a wife, mother, college professor and Virginia Beach resident: a compassionate, principled critical thinker and hardworking community member. Additionally, I endeavored to emphasize Saint Leo University’s core values in all I wrote and did during the campaign, as those values are also my personal values.
It was important to me that I was known as a member of the faculty of Saint Leo University and that all I did reflected my respect for self, others, my institution and this city. I also wanted my words and actions to reflect my commitment to responsible stewardship in all areas, specifically in the areas of economics and the environment, which is one of my primary concerns for the future. When I introduced myself to others, it was first and foremost as a concerned and engaged member of the Virginia Beach community and the community of my institution.
I worked hard during the campaign to keep a promise I made to myself when I determined to join the race for City Council: I would avoid mud-slinging and negative campaigning.
I would strive to show my value and avoid attacking my competitors. I would always maintain my dignity and welcome conversation with my opposition. All of this was extremely difficult given our divisive political climate. While I occasionally had to identify my competitors’ shortfalls, I worked hard in my discussions and writings to do so only in relation to skills, experience or knowledge, and not via personal attacks. In all this, I maintained my integrity and, I hope, set an example for others.
When I lost the race, these values defined me and gave me comfort even as I understood my loss was partially a result of my stubborn resolve to stay true to my values. I am grateful to work with many who understand the significance of what I did and how I did it.
It was an experience I will continue to draw from in the future, for it will always remind me of the value of offering oneself to the service of others and continuing to serve whenever possible, because the service is what matters.
In running for City Council, I wanted my students to see, for my son to see, that being a part of the world means participating in the process of change and that any attempt to make a positive difference is always worth the effort.
Dr. Karen Beardslee Kwasny is an assistant professor of English at Saint Leo University and a former member of the Virginia Beach Planning Commission who lives in Ashville Park.
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