Allison Silberberg, who served as the Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, is a writer, public speaker, and lifelong advocate for social justice issues. She has worked to promote civic engagement and address unmet social needs. She served as Mayor from January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2018, and her Mayoral term was a game changer on many fronts.
As Mayor, Allison and the City of Alexandria joined forces with Arlington County to put forward the City’s winning proposal for Amazon HQ2 and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. Amazon selected Arlington for its HQ2, and Virginia Tech selected Alexandria for its $1 billion Innovation Campus. This is a game changer for the city, the region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is the largest business deal in the history of the Washington, D.C., area. In addition to undergraduate and graduate students and top-flight faculty, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will bring together entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and start-ups. Already an innovation hub, Alexandria will now be a key part of a major technology center in the nation. Furthermore, this deal will certainly ensure that the City is continuing to diversify its economy so that it is not so tied to the ups and downs of the federal government.
During her term as Mayor, Allison also prioritized ethics, transparency, and inclusiveness. She initiated and drafted and the Council signed the City’s Statement on Inclusiveness, which has garnered national attention. Allison’s position as a staunch environmentalist resulted in actions to protect the environment, including: achieving a crucial goal of adopting a plan to address and resolve the City’s long-deferred sewage outfall issue; quintupling the number of trees planted each year in the City from 200 to 1,100 trees; adding beautification to public spaces across the City; redoing Windmill Hill Park, Warwick Pool, Waterfront Park, and Lake Cook; and encouraging civic participation and philanthropy to partner with the City to renovate City parks, resulting in a record number of parks getting renovated. Under her bold leadership, the City Council approved and built three new schools in one term; approved and built the Patrick Henry Recreation Center; tripled the dedicated funding for the Affordable Housing Fund; created an Arts District in North Old Town; adopted the first Age-Friendly Plan in Virginia, which is endorsed by AARP and WHO; approved the Potomac Yard Metro Station Plan; doubled the repaving of roads; and maintained the AAA bond rating.
During her term, Allison was selected to teach a session at the Seminar on Transition for Newly-Elected Mayors at the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The Seminar on Transition for Newly-Elected Mayors is co-sponsored by the IOP and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Prior to serving as Mayor, Allison served as the Vice Mayor of the Alexandria City Council from 2012 to 2015 and was endorsed by EMILY’s List and many local leaders.
Allison continues to speak out for a proactive, common sense approach to government while championing education, social justice, the environment, affordable housing, inclusiveness and civility. She continues to write and is outspoken about common sense gun reform laws and the Equal Rights Amendment. She has taught two seminars as a Political Practitioner at George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Political Leadership Academy, Fall 2020, Spring 2021.
Her writing focuses extensively on the role of the individual in effecting social change. She is the author of Visionaries In Our Midst: Ordinary People who are Changing our World, an inspiring book that profiles individuals who are making a difference in our country. Endorsed by Studs Terkel, Pete Seeger, Marvin Kalb, Helen Thomas, and Paul Loeb, Visionaries In Our Midst focuses on public unsung heroes who are committed to social change and demonstrates what is possible. The book received strong praise from the ALA Booklist, Publishers Weekly and ForeWord Magazine, hitting #1 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases in Philanthropy & Charity for over two weeks and in the top 10 of that list for five months. ForeWord Reviews named Visionaries In Our Midst a finalist for its Book of the Year Award for 2009.
In 2014, the Society for Women’s Health Research, whose mission is to ensure that women are included in medical research, clinical trials, and drug testing, commissioned Allison to co-author a book. With a change of leadership, SWHR is considering revisions for the book before publication.
Allison is also the author of And Life Will Be a Beautiful Dream: A Book about Peggy and Alvin Brown, a commissioned memoir about the meaningful life of a philanthropic family.
Her writing has appeared on PBS.org in conjunction with Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s documentary series, The War, as well as in conjunction with David Grubin’s documentary series, The Jewish Americans. Her columns have appeared in The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News. Her column about the contentious creation of the King holidayon the op/ed page of The Washington Post in January 2008 went to #1 on the paper’s web site the day that it ran. In late 2011, she had a column in The Washington Post about the Alexandria waterfront debate and the future of Old Town Alexandria. She has also written for politicians. In 1989, she wrote an episode for the hit television series, Mama’s Family.
Allison has over 25 years of experience in community leadership and public service, including: interning for Senator Edward M. Kennedy; working as Chief Editor and Chief Research Assistant for Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen; starting and leading a nonprofit called Lights, Camera, Action! (LCA!), which used film to mentor youth in Anacostia; grantmaking to local nonprofits; and serving on the World Bank’s Community Outreach Grants Committee. For nearly a decade, she hosted monthly charitable events, which gave all proceeds to local nonprofits focused on children at risk and families in distress.
Allison’s high-impact grantmaking caught the attention of the World Bank. In 2005, the World Bank asked her to serve a three-year term on its Community Outreach Grants Committee, which disbursed major funding (over $1.3 million) to local nonprofits in Washington. She has received two awards for her community work: the 2004 Reatig Award for Outstanding Service to the Film & Video Community and a 2003 Culturatti Award (an honor given to 15 in the D.C. region for their contributions to the area’s culture and arts scene).
Allison’s photography, which specializes in portraiture, has appeared in The Washington Post as well as other major newspapers and magazines in the States and abroad.
Her photograph of Coretta Scott King has garnered national attention and is represented by Getty Images.
From 2004 to 2012, Allison was appointed to Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC), which serves as an advocate for the city’s most vulnerable. Legislative issues include: employment, affordable housing, health care, homeless prevention, utility costs, and abusive lending practices. From 2010 to 2012, she served as chair, focusing the EOC on job creation and affordable housing as well as initiating the EOC’s annual public service day, “All Hands on Deck.”
In July 2011, the EOC’s first, annual “All Hands on Deck” renovated the Alexandria Community Shelter, which is the City’s shelter for the homeless and which at the time was managed by the nonprofit, New Hope Housing. Together with more than two dozen donors, including Home Depot, and 100 volunteers, “All Hands on Deck” was a tremendous success. To see photos and media links, or to watch the three-minute video that was donated by Double R Productions, please click here. In June 2012, the EOC’s “All Hands on Deck” focused on Community Lodgings, and Patch captured the day with a story.
Allison’s accolades include the Commission for Women’s 2019 Award for Outstanding Public Service and New Hope Housing’s 2012 Leadership/Servanthood award for her role in leading the EOC’s “All Hands on Deck” project to renovate the Alexandria Community Shelter. Poppy, a short film she directed and produced with Anacostia teens for LCA!, won a CINE Golden Eagle and an award from the American Association of University Women. Seven of the eight LCA! participants went to college.
Currently, Allison serves on the board of Community Lodgings, on the board of Friends of Alexandria’s Mental Health Center, on the Leadership Council of OneVirginia2021, and on the Government Relations Committee at the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Since 2007, she has served as a founding honorary board member of the National Chamber Ensemble. She served as the president of the board of the Georgetown Senior Center, 2010 – 2012.
In 2014, she served as the Secretary/Treasurer, a corporate officer, for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Allison has a B.A. in international relations and history from American University and an M.F.A. in playwriting from the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles. Allison has lived in Alexandria since 1989.