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History

The Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations (the Federation) celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2014.  It was founded in 1964 by a group of civic leaders following several confrontations with developers seeking to build high rise apartment buildings on large open tracts in Alexandria’s West End.

The leader and first president of the Federation was Mel Bergheim, representing the Dowden Terrace Association.  He was assisted by Chuck Beatley and Roger Wheeler of the Seminary Hill Association, John O’Hara of Seminary Valley, Dan Cray of Taylor Run and Marian Johnson representing the Woods Avenue neighborhood.  From the beginning the group sought citywide participation with emphasis on bring in well-established civic associations such as Old Town, Rosemont, Del Ray and North Ridge.  It also sought participation from Alexandria’s African-American community. Later Chuck Beatley became Mayor and Mel Bergheim became Vice-Mayor.

Bylaws for the new organization were developed and adopted in 1965. The stated purpose of the organization was:  “...To serve as a means of communications among the Associations comprising the Federation about matters of common interest, and to promote in connection therewith nonpartisan civic activity for the general welfare of the City of Alexandria, Virginia.”  The bylaws also specified that a member organization must represent at least 25 households.

Throughout its 40 year history, interest in the Federation has waxed and waned depending on the climate for development in Alexandria.  Nevertheless, throughout the 1970s, 80s and early ‘90s it continued to play a role in the civic life of the city.  During election periods it hosted non-partisan candidate forums and circulated detailed questionnaires to those running.  It also sponsored a cable TV program on civic affairs.

In the mid-1990s, however, a series of internal, divisive circumstances rendered the Federation virtually moribund.  No meetings or elections were held for a number of months.  In 1997, Judy Miller of Rosemont asked a number of civic leaders to her home to discuss reviving the organization.  That meeting was the impetus for a “new” Federation with new leadership and direction.  Following a lengthy process of writing bylaws and a ratification procedure by member associations, the revived organization was launched in 1998 with Co-Presidents, Ms. Miller and Jack Sullivan of Seminary Hill.

In ensuing years, the Federation repeatedly has proved its worth as a forum for information exchange and activity coordination.  Under Federation aegis many civic associations regularly have coalesced around specific issues.  Those efforts often have been remarkably successful in mitigating some of the most troubling aspects of development in Alexandria.

As the Federation moves forward into the twenty-first century, its mission continues to focus on improving the quality of life for Alexandria's many and diverse communities.