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Charniele Herrings accidental path to politics

Posted on Jan 08,2009
Filed Under Local Leaders , Community,

photo by John Arundel
Attorney Charniele Herring is running for delegate in Virginia's 46th District,
hoping to replace Brian Moran, who's running for governor.

In mid-December, Charniele L. Herring was a successful West End businesswoman, political activist and attorney in private practice. Like most, she was minding her business in a tough economy, attending Rotary meetings, wrapping gifts and preparing for the Holidays.

Then, boom.
Longtime state Del. Brian Moran (D-46) announced he was stepping down from his seat to focus all of his energies on his tightly-contested race for governor. Within an hour the 48-year-old Herring decided to run for the vacated seat, and within 96 hours she had won the hastily-arranged Democratic caucus election.

In a Special Election on Jan. 13, Herring will face off with her Republican challenger, a law student from Catholic University, who like her, had the same harried time frame to make up his mind to run and win his respective party's nod.

photo by John Arundel
Attorney Charniele Herring is running for delegate in
Virginia's 46th District, hoping to replace Brian
Moran, who's running for governor. To her right
is John Herrity, VP of Alexandria Chevy.

"This time frame is difficult to deal with, but I understand the Governor's desire to have a voting member in place for the General Assembly session," said Susan B. Kellom, Chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.  "The candidates will have very little time to reach out to voters. We hope that the voters will be able to evaluate the candidates based on their record of service to the community."

If she is successful in her bid, Herring will complete Moran's unexpired term. Among the items on her legislative agenda are working to protect funding for early childhood education; obtaining dedicated funding to address traffic congestion; supporting small businesses; and protecting families from losing their homes during times of economic crisis.

“This is sooner than we expected, but we are ready,” Herring said. “I have lived in this area for almost 30 years, and I have spent the last 22 years working on issues that affect families and businesses in Alexandria and Fairfax County. I am eager to continue my public service as a member of the General Assembly."
If Herring wins the election next week, and few predict she won't in such a heavily-Democratic leaning district, Herring will take her seat in Richmond -- the next day.  "It's all been kind of blinding," she said last week in an interview.

“Delegate Moran has served our district well, and we all appreciate his service to us, our state, and country," she said. "I hope the voters of the 46th District will grant me the honor of serving as their next representative, and I look forward to partnering with them during the next legislative session.”

Herring was born in the Dominican Republic and was an “Army Brat” during childhood. "My growing-up years were spent in many places," she said. "But I have been in the Northern Virginia area the longest."

One of those "many places," she quietly admits, includes a brief period in which she was homeless, living in a succession of low-rent places with her mother, Juliette Carolyn Brooks Herring. after her parents split up and her mother could not find work. "My mother is the person I respect the most in life," she said. "She is the most loving, strong, and courageous individual that I know."

Despite the childhood trauma of being homeless, Herring pulled herself together, studied hard in high school, and ended up in college, then law school.

Her first job, between college at George Mason University and law school at Catholic University, was working as  a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) volunteer assigned to Good Shepard Family & Housing Services. After passing the bar, Herring landed a plum job at a blue-chip Washington law firm, then started her own private practice on the West End in 2003.

Herring is active, some might say hyper-active, when it comes to community service. A graduate of the Sorenson Institute of Politics at the University of Virginia, she serves as president of the West End Business Association, "Charniele has done the work to win the 46th District House of Delegates seat,” said Shayna Englin, a local political consultant. “Charniele has done the policy work, and she's done the political work.  She's a formidable candidate in this very quick election."

She is also West End Precinct Captain for the Alexandria Democratic Committee and is a member of the Alexandria Rotary. president of the West End Business Association, a two-time Governor Kaine appointee to the Virginia Council on the Status of Women; a member and former chair of Alexandria’s Commission for Women; and member of the Youth Policy Commission.

She chairs the Public Policy Committee for Hopkins House (an early childhood education institution), and is on the board of directors for the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. She also received the prestigious Monsignor Geno Baroni Award for Social Justice.

As a participant with Social Action Linking Together (S.A.L.T.), she said she worked to expand funding for the Homeless Intervention Act, which became a state-wide program.  “My dedication to community service began with a very personal experience that changed the way I looked at the world,” Herring said. “I am committed to making this wonderful area of the Commonwealth a better place to live, work, and do business.”

Herring’s advocacy began at the age of 13 when she testified before an Armed Forces sub-committee during the Reagan administration about the need for continued health care coverage for military children. Herring said when she was 15 years-old and her family became homeless, she he said she knew then that she wanted to become a champion for those who did not have a voice in government.
Herring was accepted into George Mason University through the Virginia Student Transition Education Program (STEP), where she earned a B.A. in Economics.
After graduation, she served as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA). Herring then received her Juris Doctorate from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. She is also a 2006 Fellow of the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leadership Program at the University of Virginia. As an activist and attorney, she sais she has already successfully worked in Richmond to help craft effective legislation and help ensure that both parties get along better.

"I want to always be part of the political process and represent my community in some capacity," Herring said, flashing her infectious, high-wattage smile. "We have some very difficult issues with the state budget and the economy right now, and I do think I can make a difference in Richmond if elected."

SNAPSHOT: Charniele Herring

Favorite book? The Joy Luck Club
Favorite movie? The Color Purple
Must See TV?  There is no such thing.

Comfort food? For me, it is not just one item of food, it is a combination of three things with an appropriate presentation: collard greens on cornbread and tomatoes on the side of my plate. Now that is comfort food. 

What's in your car CD player right now?  Scatchmo, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (the entire symphony not just the first movement), Jackie Wilson, Muddy Waters, Etta James, and Elton John.

Next journey?  Returning to Scotland.    
One thing people might be surprised to learn about you?  I am trained in and performed ballet for thirteen years—three years with the Virginia Ballet School & Company.

Last gift you received? A porcelain Native American doll.

Best advice you ever got? Plan ahead and expect success; fail to plan and expect failure.

If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? A fellow Alexandrian, Mark Warner. 

Describe a perfect day. Spending time with my family in a place that is beautiful (with no cell phone), touring historic homes and looking at beautiful art. The day is finished with a dinner outside in a place that is surrounded by water fountains,  plants and flowers and the temperature all day is between 70-75 degrees with no humidity.       

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