HOTSEAT- Seaman-ship: School Board vet tackles Council

Linda Seaman


Back in March, Linda Seaman got an inkling of what it could be like to be on City Council, when the interfaith organization IMPACT sat local elected officials onstage in front of 1,600 people and demanded they agree or disagree with the group's recommendations on housing and transportation.

"I found myself looking at them on stage and thinking, what would I say?" says Seaman, a Westminster Presbyterian Church elder who was on the IMPACT housing research team.

"We came up with solutions and things we'd like to see changed," she says. "It wasn't to play 'gotcha!' but people want to know where elected officials stand."

The former public servant is ready to sit in the electoral hot seat herself and let people know where she stands as one of five candidates seeking three open City Council seats at the Democratic convention.

Seaman has sat on a government board before– she was on the School Board when members were appointed rather than elected, and during her 1987-1996 stint on the board, she served as both chair and vice chair.

At that time, achievement and combining Walker and Buford middle schools were the big issues.

"Frankly, the issues haven't changed," she admits. "We're still trying to find ways to help children achieve at high levels. I wish our challenge had been solved and gone away."

While Seaman's lengthy volunteer resume is heavily weighted toward educational efforts– Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, Computers 4Kids– she decided not to run again for School Board.

"Our children are grown," she says. "It's something for parents who've had more recent experiences in the schools."

But she notes one concern about the still-new process of an elected School Board: other than Alvin Edwards, no candidates are surfacing. "I'm not sure what happens if we don't have candidates," she says.

Seaman retired as executive director of the Charlottesville Area School Business Alliance last year, and rather than sit back and smell the roses– figuratively– in her beautifully landscaped Greenbrier garden, she decided to run for City Council. "I have lots of energy," she offers. "When I have fewer day-to-day obligations, it's a good time for me to do it."

Her issues are interconnected: transportation affects affordable housing affects the work force affects the environment. "I think I can have an impact," she says.

Seaman grew up in the Hudson Valley in New York, where being involved in the community "was just what people did," she says. Her father was on the school board, and her mother was a teacher who became involved in Habitat for Humanity during her retirement.

Young Linda was influenced further by Girls State, the summer leadership program to which fast-tracking high schoolers once flocked. "I thought, that's really cool seeing how government and the political process works," she recalls. 

The senior class trip to Washington, D.C.– coming down from upstate New York was a big deal, she says– was another seminal experience. Seeing the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives, she remembers thinking, "'This is where those laws I learned about happened.' That had a big impact on me. I was very impressed."

Forty-five years later, Seaman is channeling her democratic impulses into getting the Democratic nomination at the June 2 convention, which as Charlottesvillians know, pretty much guarantees election in the general election in November.

And sitting on her sun porch, where a visitor admires her azaleas and notes the deer fence in the back of her yard– in the middle of town– Seaman predicts what will probably be a City Council issue before long: deer. 

She's ready.

Age: 62

Why here? UVA hired my husband 33 years ago, and the kids and I decided to tag along.

What's worst about living here? Traffic

Favorite hangout? Most any coffee shop

Most overrated virtue? Relaxation

People would be surprised to know: I drove in sports car rallies.

What would you change about yourself? I'd let my sense of humor show more often.

Proudest accomplishment? Serving the children of Charlottesville as a School Board member

People find most annoying about you: I can be very analytical.

Whom do you admire? Madeleine Albright

Favorite book? Anything by Barbara Kingsolver or Lee Smith

Subject that causes you to rant? People who complain about our government and then don't vote

Biggest 21st-century thrill? My three grandchildren

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Climate destabilization

What do you drive? Toyota Prius

In your car CD player right now: Cow Tunes for Kids (see 21st –century thrill)

Next journey? Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies this summer

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Why would I tell you?

Regret: Haven't gotten a master's degree– yet.

Favorite comfort food: Ice cream

Always in your refrigerator:Ice cream

Must-see TV: Who watches TV?

Favorite cartoon: For Better or Worse

Describe a perfect day. A sunny morning, breakfast with my husband, lots of newspapers, gardening, hiking, dinner with friends and a show at the Paramount.

Walter Mitty fantasy: I design a botanical garden in McIntire Park.

Who'd play you in the movie? Judy Dench

Most embarrassing moment? There are so many– where to begin?

Best advice you ever got? "It's not the who or the what, but the why and the how."

Favorite bumper sticker? Seaman for City Council