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Molly Ward moves on to the White House

Jordan Crawford | 10/17/2013, 10:02 a.m.
Hampton Mayor Molly Ward is moving on to the White House.

With this new season will come a new beginning for Hampton Mayor, Molly Joseph Ward, as she takes a position within President Barack Obama’s administration.

Ward was slated to begin a job as the Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs on Monday, but the federal shutdown has delayed that start date.

She will work under Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew to engage mayors and municipal leaders across the country concerning issues facing localities. The position will force her to move to Washington, D.C.

Ward is leaving the top elected post with nearly three years left on her term, meaning the city council will need to appoint an interim mayor within 60 days.

Throughout her mayoral term, Ward has focused on state and regional issues while pushing senior-level staff to coordinate neighborhood curb-and-gutter issues.

She most recently won reelection in May 2012 claiming nearly two-thirds of votes while beating challenger Councilman Donnie Tuck. She structured that campaign around her willingness and ability to push state and regional officials to advance projects that benefit the city.

Ward took office on the City Council in July 2008 a few months before the Great Recession affected property values in Hampton Roads. The economic downturn has forced the city to scale back services while increasing the property tax rate.

Ward also attended community rallies that supported the National Park Service monument at Fort Monroe. She was present as President Obama signed a proclamation creating the national monument on Nov. 1, 2011.

Ward’s participation in Fort Monroe’s evolution from a military post into a public community and tourism destination hasn’t always been smooth sailing, however.

In April, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion booting Ward and Vice Mayor George Wallace from the Fort Monroe Authority Board of Trustees, citing a conflict of interest because the pair was also members of the City Council.

Ward and Wallace, both Democrats, decried the decision as being politically motived. The attorney general’s decision forced the City Council to appoint new representatives on the authority’s board.

For the past two years Ward has served as chairwoman of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, the group which steers the region’s transportation policy and interests.

Her term was scheduled to end this month. Ward was known for her conciliatory, consensus building style while leading the board, which will face critical decisions soon as to how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for roads.

Ward is known for praising her colleagues in both parties, including Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sesames, a Republican, and State Sen. Tommy Norment, who also sits on the board.

Last Monday, Ward said the City Council will need to “nurture” downtown and Coliseum Central, plan for sea level rise, and maintain its strong relationships with NASA, Joint Base Langley-Eustis and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center after she resigns.

She also mentioned the city’s need to maintain a partnership with the Fort Monroe Authority and National Park Service as the historic property continues its transition.