HOTSEAT- McKeever's run: Not on the mommy track
Any woman with a two-year-old, a three-year-old, and her own law practice might hesitate to volunteer on local boards, much less run for City Council.
Jennifer McKeever doesn't seem like "any woman." For one, what working mom describes herself as "energetic"? And when she says that "growth comes from change," she's not just talking about the latest pack of McMansions or downtown penthouses. McKeever could be talking about her own experience.
When she graduated from Western Albemarle High in 1990, the chances of her going to UVA and then on to law school seemed remote. For starters, her family lived in Greenwood– "not the fancy part"– and didn't have a lot of money. "We were on food stamps," says McKeever from her law office high atop the Citizens Commonwealth Center. "My dad said there was no money for college, no money for your wedding."
She attended Piedmont Virginia Community College while working at restaurants St. Maarten Café and the College Inn to put herself through school.
"When I was 18 or 19, I quickly got off track," she recounts. "I didn't do well at Piedmont for several semesters and really could have easily quit."
The turning point came on her 21st birthday, when she got drunk and crashed her car into a tree.
"It was the most profound event," says McKeever. "It showed the system really worked. It altered my life and changed my perspective. I later ran into the police officer who had arrested me and thanked him. I really took responsibility for a mistake I made and turned it around."
The upshot from those experiences that McKeever says she'd bring to City Council: "I understand people who struggle."
She went from a failing student to a 4.0 and a transfer to UVA. "Piedmont," she says, "made me see what was possible."
During the 1998 General Assembly, McKeever interned for state Senator Emily Couric and asked Couric about law school.
"She said she always wished she'd gone to law school," says McKeever. "I thought she didn't need it with the legislature, but she said it would help."
The near-community college drop-out got her law degree from American University in 2001– cum laude.
So while many people with small children and their own business might find their plates pretty full, McKeever chairs the Community Development Block Grant task force and sits on the boards of parks and rec and her Locust Grove neighborhood association. She's a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.
Since she decided to run for Council, McKeever goes to city budget meetings and thinks it's fun. And in her spare time, she has a blog.
"My kids benefit because I give them a role model structured to service," explains McKeever. So does her husband, a volunteer firefighter for Albemarle County.
She believes that growing up here and then leaving and returning have given her a fresh perspective. She remembers when her father commuted on Route 250 out to Greenwood in 20 minutes and called the drive home "relaxing."
In contrast, "Recently I had to drive to an event at Farmington, and it was not fun because of the traffic. People aren't going to get that sort of experience... the peace" that her father did. She compares local traffic to Northern Virginia's, where a trip to the grocery three miles away takes an hour.
McKeever calls it "shameful" that people who grew up in this area can't afford to live here now. "I want to make this place great for all residents," she says. "I love Charlottesville."
She'll find out whether she's destined for City Council at the convention June 2, when the Dems winnow five candidates down to three.
Why here? Grew up here
What's worst about living here? Affordability
Favorite hangout? Downtown
Most overrated virtue? Obedience
People would be surprised to know: I watch General Hospital regularly (as time permits).
What would you change about yourself? I would exercise more.
Proudest accomplishment? Overcoming personal defeat to graduate from law school and pass the Virginia State Bar
People find most annoying about you: Optimism
Whom do you admire? Lance Armstrong, Barack Obama
Favorite book? Cold Sassy Tree, Big Stone Gap
Subject that causes you to rant? The war in Iraq
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Treo
Biggest 21st-century creep out? National Security Agency (NSA) letters
What do you drive? '98 Honda Civic
In your car CD player right now: Nancy Griffith
Next journey? Sandbridge Beach
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Let's just say I was convicted on my 21st birthday, and I learned a valuable lesson.
Regret: Didn't buy a house in the '90s.
Favorite comfort food: Chocolate
Always in your refrigerator: Milk
Must-see TV: The Office (and General Hospital)
Favorite cartoon: Baby Blues/Zits (tie)
Describe a perfect day. Walk to City Market with family, brunch downtown, nap, a delicious dinner with friends and family in our backyard
Walter Mitty fantasy: My dad, my cousin, Michael, and I (with our families) tour the country's baseball stadiums as we travel cross-country one summer.
Who'd play you in the movie? Andie McDowell or Julia Louis Dreyfuss (because of the hair). Anytime between 1991-1993.
Best advice you ever got? You can do it.
Favorite bumper sticker? Jennifer McKeever Charlottesville City Council
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO