By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Expect to see more Kenny Alexander for Mayor signs continue to pop up all over Norfolk, now that the Virginia General Assembly has ended.
Alexander has been in the Norfolk mayor’s race for the past few months, but has respected his current position as a Virginia state senator and maintained a low campaign profile during the time the legislature was in session. Now that the session has ended, Alexander says he is focused on becoming Norfolk’s next mayor.
He has two capable opponents – Norfolk Councilman Andy Protogyrou and Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe. Alexander says he’s rolling up his sleeves over the next weeks until the May 3 election day to get out the messages he believes Norfolk voters want to embrace. The signs are just the beginning.
Bittersweet memories surface when he is asked about a campaign sign that rests on a manicured lawn in front of a brick home located only a few blocks from his alma mater, Lake Taylor High. There, he was coming of age at a painful time.
“My mom passed before I finished high school,” said Alexander, who has been a Democratic member of the Virginia State Senate since 2012. “I went to live with my grandparents.”
Alexander ran for and handily won the 5th District seat that had been held by his mentor and friend, the late Sen. Yvonne B. Miller. He first had served in the Virginia House of Delegates from Aug. 15, 2002 to September 2012.
“Some assume that they know my story,” said Alexander who resigned from the Virginia House of Delegates after he won a special election for the Senate on Sept. 4, 2012. Now he is betting on a win for mayor in the general election on May 3, 2016. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday, April 11.
“People think they know my story but I was raised by my grandparents who had nine children,” he continued.
The point is this. The campaign sign by his alma mater, Lake Taylor High, reminds him of a period that was the best and worst of times. He held several leadership positions in high school including drum major, president of the student body, and was voted Most Talented Guy.
“My mom died when she was 36,” he explained. “My father was 52 when he died. No matter how small or large your family, it makes you feel humble when you reflect on your family. My support during 20 plus years of public service has come from my biological family, my church family, and my fraternal family. “
“So when I see campaign signs in someone’s yard, it lets me know that the citizens are ready for a change,” he said. “These are people from all over the city, who have worked with me on some committee or project.”
“People know what I stand for,” he said. “Some of the issues I stand for are economic development, decent housing, and resiliency.”
“But when I say resiliency I am talking about people bouncing back after they have been broken in life,” said Alexander who finished Lake Taylor in 1985 and enrolled in John Tyler Community College in Chester, Va.
There he studied mortuary science and met his future wife, Donna Burnley Alexander. During the next two decades, he and his wife poured their expertise into Metropolitan Funeral Service. They would add two new sites, one at Wards Corner in Norfolk and another in Portsmouth. They have two sons: Kenneth II and David.
“We need to change some conversations, especially the ones that we are holding about resiliency,” said Alexander who began his service to the community as president of Berkley’s Beacon Light Civic League and Beacon Light Community Development Corp.
“People who support me are not against anyone, or anything – they are just pro Kenny,” said Alexander who is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Old Dominion University and a master’s degree in diplomacy from Norwich University, the oldest, private military college in the country. He is currently working on his doctorate in leadership and change through a hybrid program with Antioch University.
“I’m not against anything or anyone,” he said. “And this is why people tell me they are putting one of my signs in their yard.”
“I believe that by nature we in Norfolk are resilient,” he said, pointing to several issues he would like to solve around a crowded roundtable: Senseless shootings, unemployment, underemployment, affordable housing, and education.
“I will bring the best people to the table,” he said. “We will use evidence-based practices that will yield positive outcomes.”
Alexander also brings several decades of experience that have put him in touch with many well-known problem solvers including Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney who came to Norfolk in December to endorse Alexander, a fellow Democrat, in his bid for mayor of Norfolk.
Stoney is a confidant of Gov. Terry McAuliffe and part of his inner circle, and may run for mayor of Richmond this year, according to news reports.
“Life has helped me develop what I call the Five F’s,” Alexander said. “The first F is faith. This means step out of your comfort zone even when you can’t see it. It’s there.”
“The second F is favor,” he said. “We live in a nation that is blessed. It is the most prosperous nation in the world. We should not take our assets lightly.”
“The third F is family,” he said. “The fourth F is friendship. This means be friendly to everybody but be careful. You can’t live in isolation. You have to be tolerant, inclusive and explore but be careful. The fifth F is Fun.”
“I have been serious all of my life,” said Alexander who was sworn in to the Senate of Virginia in 2012 and represented the 89th House of Delegates District from 2002 to 2012.
“Yes, I have been serious all of my life,” he said. “But you have to have moments when you have fun – I mean celebrate. This means you celebrate yourself and celebrate others. Whenever you win a victory it is for others.”