Phil Mendelson

Phil Mendelson
9th Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
Assumed office
June 13, 2012
Preceded by Kwame Brown
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
In office
January 2, 1999  November 29, 2012
Preceded by Hilda Mason
Succeeded by Anita Bonds
Personal details
Born Philip Heath Mendelson
(1952-11-08) November 8, 1952
Political party Democratic
Alma mater American University

Philip Heath "Phil" Mendelson (born November 8, 1952[1]) is an American politician from Washington, D.C. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, elected by the Council on June 13, 2012, following the resignation of Council Chair Kwame R. Brown. He was elected to serve the remainder of Brown's term in a citywide special election on November 6, 2012,[2] and re-elected to a full term in 2014.[3]

Early years

Mendelson came to Washington from Cleveland Heights, Ohio,[4] in 1970 to attend American University.[5] He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.[6]

Political career

Advisory Neighborhood Commission


In 1986, Mendelson ran unopposed to represent McLean Gardens in Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C.[7] He won the election.[8] In 1987, he was elected treasurer of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C.[9][10]

Mendelson fought against a developer who wanted to build an office building on Wisconsin Avenue near Upton Street NW.[11] Mendelson was opposed to the developer building an access road over a forested area.[11] After his community group filed a lawsuit to block the road, a court determined that the developer had the right to build the access road.[12] Mendelson tried to block the work using his own body, for which he was arrested.[13] The wooded area was razed, and the access road was built.[13]

Mendelson was critical of a policy of assessing property taxes on a building until the roof is sealed.[14] One particular developer saved $500,000 of property taxes from delaying the sealing of the roof until later in the construction timeline.[14] Mendelson said the District of Columbia was losing significant amounts of tax revenue from what he called a loophole.[14]

In 1988, Mendelson was elected to the D.C. Democratic State Committee, representing Ward 3, in 1988.[15] He ran unopposed for reelection as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner,[16] and he won the election.[17] He was elected chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C soon thereafter.[18]


In 1990, Mendelson resigned from the D.C. Democratic State Committee to work for the reelection campaign of Jim Nathanson, member of the Council of the District of Columbia representing Ward 3.[19]

Also in 1990, Mendelson voiced his opposition to iron fences on the Duke Ellington Bridge in Rock Creek Park that were intended to prevent people from jumping off the bridge.[20] He said the fences did not prevent suicide because there were more suicide attempts from the bridge after the fences were erected.[20] An increase in suicide attempts from the nearby Taft Bridge demonstrated that the fences merely diverted, rather than deterred, suicide attempts in his opinion.[20] Mendelson argued against putting fences up again after the Duke Ellington Bridge's scheduled reconstruction and instead post phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines on the bridge.[20] He was also opposed to building fences on the Taft Bridge.[21] A group of local mental health physicians was in favor of the fences, saying the fences were worthwhile even if they did not deter every suicide attempt.[21]

Mendelson ran unopposed for reelection as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in 1990;[22] he won the election.[23]

When the owner of an residential building proposed constructing townhouses in front of the apartments, Mendelson opposed the idea, saying, "It makes no sense to put eight townhouses on the lawn of an apartment building."[24]

In 1992, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly's task force on the homeless made a recommendation that shelter beds should be located equally throughout the District.[25] Other than a few churches, there were no homeless shelters located in Ward 3 at the time.[25] The ward's council member Jim Nathanson opposed establishing homeless shelters in Ward 3.[25] Mendelson was also opposed, saying, "There's no right for the homeless to get shelter in any neighborhood they want."[25]

In 1992, Mendelson ran unopposed for reelection as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner[26] and won the election.[27] He was subsequently elected vice-chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C, which represents residents of Cleveland Park, Cathedral Heights, Massachusetts Heights, and Woodley Park.[28]


In 1996, Mendelson ran for an at-large seat on the Council.[29] Mendelson's campaign focused on holding government employees accountable, hiring qualified individuals for government positions, and cutting wasteful and ineffective programs.[6] Mendelson criticized incumbent Harold Brazil for conspicuously leaving a Council meeting just before a vote on whether to reduce pension benefits for newly hired police officers, firefighters, and teachers.[29] Mendelson said Brazil's absence was in line with many other important votes that Brazil for which was absent.[29] He said all Council members should accept a cut in salary due to recent poor performance of the Council.[30]

Brazil won the Democratic primary election.[31] Mendelson came in fourth place[31] with seven percent of the vote.[32] While Mendelson did not appear on the ballot for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, he was only individual to notify the Board of Elections that he was willing to represent Single Member District 3C06, and therefore the Board certified him the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for that district.[33]

When Congress began moving more and more responsibilities from the District Government to the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, Mendelson argued against doing so, saying that only removes accountability from Mayor Marion Barry.[34] Mendelson said that Mayor Barry should have enough control over the District in order for voters to be able to judge his actions.[34] "These end runs, so to speak, in a way empower Barry, because they get him off the hook and play into the voters' reliance on other people to solve our problems."[34]

In 1997, the District Department of Recreation tore down a playground in McLean Gardens because it was rotting, splintered, and dangerous.[35] Mendelson criticized the Department of Recreation for not informing residents ahead of time and for not replacing the equipment immediately.[35] A spokesperson for the Department said that the new playground equipment would be installed within two weeks.[35]

The Washington Post wrote an article detailing how the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs does not consistently enforce District laws, does not consistently collect the fees it is due, and has insufficient authority to do either.[36] Mendelson noted that residents build decks without permits and receive no penalty, and neighbors have no recourse.[36] Mendelson said that the Department could only advise residents of the law, and he advocated for giving the Department more authority to enforce the laws that it has purview over.[36] Mendelson later advocated against the Council's confirmation of W. David Watts as the agency's director, saying that the Council was not confirming the best individual for the position.[37] Mendelson continued to advocate for simplifying regulatory requirements and increasing enforcement.[38] When the Council unanimously passed a bill to reform the regulatory process, Mendelson said it was hastily written and had not been opened to enough public opinion.[39] Mendelson asked the Financial Control Board to overturn the Council's bill.[39] While Council member David Catania admitted the bill was not perfect, he also took issue with Mendelson's approach, saying it undermined District home rule.[39]

In 1998, the Financial Control Board considered repealing a law that required environmental impact statements for private projects costing more than $1 million.[40] The Financial Control Board said repealing the law would make it easier to do business in the District.[40] Mendelson opposed the repeal, saying that environmental impact statements can reveal potential public health hazards before they occur and that preparation of the statements is not sufficiently onerous to offset the potential benefits.[40] The Financial Control Board ended up increasing the threshold from $1 million to $5 million.[41]

Council of the District of Columbia

On June 14, 1998, Mendelson announced he would run again for an at-large seat on the Council of the District of Columbia.[42] Mendelson said the public needed to be better informed about the incumbent Council's meetings and votes.[43] He said residents only hear from Council members when they are up for reelection.[43]

Mendelson said the District should be proactive about recruiting developers and businesses, and he thought he could play a role in doing so as a member of the Council.[44] He also said the Council should do more during debates on education.[44]

Mendelson's candidacy was endorsed by the editorial board of The Washington Post[45] the Metropolitan Washington AFL–CIO,[44] the Sierra Club, and the tenant advocacy council TENAC.[46]

Mendelson came in first place in the Democratic primary election with 17 percent of the vote, advancing to the general election.[47]

Mayor Marion Barry endorsed Mendelson's candidacy in the general election.[48] The editorial board of The Washington Post endorsed independent candidate Beverly Wilbourn and Republican incumbent David Catania in the general election.[49]

Mendelson won the general election with 37 percent of the vote.[50][51] He was sworn in on January 2, 1999.[52] Because Mendelson had no seniority on the Council, Council Chair Linda W. Cropp did not assign him to chair any committees, but he was appointed as a representative to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.[53]

In 1999, Mendelson and Catania sponsored a bill to amend a law that required most contractors to hire a majority of District residents to complete contracts with the District government.[54] The new bill would reduce monetary penalties for noncompliance, and ban non-compliant companies from doing business with the District for three years.[54]

Mendelson criticized the Council for passing acts as emergency legislation, which bypasses Congressional review and lasts for a short amount of time, even though the acts were not intended to fill temporary or urgent needs.[55] Mendelson was opposed to Mayor Anthony Williams' proposal to have a children's theme park on islands in the Anacostia River.[56]

Mendelson was re-elected in 2002,[57] 2006,[58] and 2010.[59]

In 2012, Kwame Brown resigned from the position of Chair of the Council.[60] In a vote of 11 to 1, the Council voted to appoint Mendelson to the position of interim Chair of the Council.[61] In a special election held in November 2012, Mendelson was elected by District voters to the position of Chair of the Council.[62] He was elected to a full term as chair in 2014.[3]

Other activities

Mendelson has served as a trustee of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City,[38] a member of the board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and as the president of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

Personal life

Mendelson is separated from Constance G. (Connie) Ridgway.[63][64]

Mendelson and Ridgway have a daughter, Adelaide Marie Ridgway-Mendelson, born July 29, 2000.[65]

Mendelson lives in Glover Park.[63]

Electoral history


1996 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, Democratic Primary[32]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Harold Brazil 17,465 42
Democratic Joseph P. Yeldell 9,230 22
Democratic John Capozzi 6,092 15
Democratic Phil Mendelson 3,117 7
Democratic Kathryn A. Pearson-West 2,015 5
Democratic Paul Savage 1,941 5
Democratic Ronnie Edwards 791 2
Democratic Ernest E. Johnson 664 2
Democratic Write-in 258 1


1998 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, Democratic Primary[66]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 14,089 17
Democratic Linda Moody 11,532 14
Democratic William H. "Rev" Bennett II 11,336 14
Democratic Bill Rice 11,087 14
Democratic Phyllis J. Outlaw 10,769 13
Democratic Sabrina Sojourner 9,725 12
Democratic Don Reeves 4,130 5
Democratic Charles Gaither 3,721 5
Democratic Greg Rhett 2,646 3
Democratic Kathryn A. Pearson-West 2,485 3
Democratic Write-in 718 1
1998 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, General Election[67]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 71,799 37
Republican David A. Catania 40,200 21
D.C. Statehood Hilda Mason 28,615 15
Independent Beverly J. Wilbourn 22,946 12
Independent Malik Z. Shabazz 15,644 8
Umoja Mark Thompson 9,733 5
Independent Sandra "SS" Seegars 2,764 1
Write-in 648 0


2002 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, Democratic Primary[68]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 38,681 43
Democratic Beverly Wilbourn 26,379 29
Democratic Dwight E. Singleton 16,749 19
Democratic M. Muhammad Shabazz 4,098 5
Democratic Al-Malik Farrakhan 3,655 4
Democratic Write-in 933 1
2002 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, General Election[57]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 90,316 47
Republican David A. Catania 51,698 27
Independent Eugene Dewitt Kinlow 17,522 9
D.C. Statehood Green Michele Tingling-Clemmons 13,828 7
Independent Chris Ray 5,879 3
Independent A.D. "Tony" Dominguez 4,395 2
Independent Ahmad Braxton-Jones 3,708 2
Independent Kweku Toure 3,304 2
Write-in 1,115 1


2006 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, Democratic Primary[69]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 62,776 64
Democratic A. Scott Bolden 35,486 36
Democratic Write-in 468 0
2006 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, General Election[58]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 90,599 51
Independent David A. Catania 58,293 33
D.C. Statehood Green Ann C. Wilcox 12,390 7
Independent Antonio "Tony" Dominguez 8,759 5
Republican Marcus Skelton 8,199 5
Write-in 912 1


2010 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, Democratic Primary[70]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 77,127 63
Democratic Michael A. Brown 34,829 28
Democratic Dorothy Douglas 6,922 6
Democratic Write-in 812 1
2010 Council of the District of Columbia, At Large, General Election[59]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 105,296 56
Independent David A. Catania 57,163 31
D.C. Statehood Green David Schwartzman 12,697 7
Independent Richard Urban 9,668 5
Write-in 1,839 1


2012 Council of the District of Columbia, Chair, Special Election[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 174,742 71
Democratic Calvin H. Gurley 69,342 28
Democratic Write-in 3,017 1


2014 Council of the District of Columbia, Chair, Democratic Primary[71]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 69,138 81
Democratic Calvin H. Gurley 15,178 18
Democratic Write-in 825 1
2014 Council of the District of Columbia, Chair, General Election[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Phil Mendelson 138,066 78
Republican Kris Hammond 12,114 7
Independent John C. Cheeks 6,949 4
D.C. Statehood Green G. Lee Aikin 5,930 3
Libertarian Kyle Walker 3,674 2
Write-in 849 0


  1. "Voters Guide 2006 Supplement" (PDF). The Washington Informer. 2006-09-24.
  2. 1 2 "Certified Results, Special Election, 2012". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. April 14, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 "Certified Results, General Election, 2014". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. December 3, 2014.
  4. Klein, Allison (June 13, 2012). "Mendelson is a man of detail, not drama". The Washington Post. p. A1.
  5. "About Phil". Phil Mendelson: DC Council Chairman. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  6. 1 2 "D.C. Council Races: At Large". The Washington Post. September 5, 1996. p. DC2.
  7. "Advisory Neighborhood Commissions". The Washington Post. October 30, 1986. p. DC11.
  8. "Winners". The Washington Post. November 13, 1986. p. DC7.
  9. "ANC Actions". The Washington Post. February 5, 1987. p. J5.
  10. "ANC Actions". The Washington Post. June 4, 1987. p. DC5.
  11. 1 2 Wheeler, Linda (June 10, 1987). "Protesters, Court Stall Building Of Road in NW". The Washington Post. p. D3.
  12. Wheeler, Linda (June 17, 1987). "Go-Ahead Granted on Disputed NW Road". The Washington Post. p. D9.
  13. 1 2 Pae, Peter (June 23, 1987). "Wooded Area Razed for Disputed NW Access Road". The Washington Post. p. B3.
  14. 1 2 3 Crenshaw, Albert B. (September 24, 1988). "Building's Unfinished Roof Gives Developer Big Shelter". The Washington Post. p. E1.
  15. Sherwood, Tom (May 5, 1988). "Jackson's Landslide Falls Short of Hopes: Lack of D.C. Organization Cited Dukakis' D.C. Vote Less Than Mondale's in 1984". The Washington Post. p. D1.
  16. "Advisory Neighborhood Commission". The Washington Post. November 3, 1988. p. J5.
  17. "District Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Election Votes Tabulated". The Washington Post. November 11, 1988. p. C4.
  18. Barker, Karlyn (October 25, 1989). "Metro's Zoo Directions Don't Tell Whole Story: Cleveland Park Feeling Short-Changed". The Washington Post. p. D5.
  19. Abramowits, Michael (March 15, 1990). "Making—and Not Making—Hard Budget Choices". The Washington Post. p. DC3.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Butler, Josephine; Mendelson, Phil (March 24, 1990). "Fences That Have Failed" (opinion). The Washington Post. p. A20.
  21. 1 2 Webb, Margaret K. (May 24, 1990). "New Debate On Suicide Barriers: Issue Dominates Taft Bridge Meetings". The Washington Post. p. DC1.
  22. "Advisory Neighborhood Commissions". The Washington Post. November 1, 1990. p. H8.
  23. Armstrong, Jenice (November 15, 1990). "Incumbents Sail Into ANC Posts; 176 Commissioners Reelected With Little or No Opposition". The Washington Post. p. J1.
  24. Greene, Jon (July 16, 1992). "Town House Plan Gets Hearing". The Washington Post. p. DC2.
  25. 1 2 3 4 Castaneda, Ruben (August 17, 1992). "Panel Would Divvy Up Beds for the Homeless: Equal Share Envisioned in All D.C. Wards". The Washington Post. p. C1.
  26. Sutner, Shaun (October 29, 1992). "New ANC Borders Spark Fierce Fights for Unpaid Posts". The Washington Post. p. DC7.
  27. Sutner, Shaun (November 19, 1992). "267 ANC Seats Filled in Vote, but 32 Remain Open". The Washington Post. p. DC4.
  28. "News Near You". The Washington Post. February 4, 1993. p. DC4.
  29. 1 2 3 Harris, Hamil R; Woodlee, Yolanda (July 25, 1996). "Challenger Says Brazil Gets Scarce for the Tough Votes". The Washington Post. p. DC1.
  30. Harris, Hamil R (September 7, 1996). "Despite D.C. Budget Woes, It Still Pays to Be on Council: Salaries Are Among Highest in the Country". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  31. 1 2 "District Primary Election Results". The Washington Post. September 11, 1996. p. A2.
  32. 1 2 "Certified Results, Primary Election, 1996". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. September 20, 1996.
  33. Wheeler, Linda; Harris, Hamil R (November 21, 1996). "ANC Winners Declared; 42 Positions Have No Takers". The Washington Post. p. DC7.
  34. 1 2 3 Williams, Vanessa (March 2, 1997). "Barry Puts Positive Spin on His Reduced Role". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  35. 1 2 3 Horwitz, Sari (June 11, 1997). "NW Children's Playground Is No More; Teary Tots, Irate Parents Find City Dismantled It Without Notice". The Washington Post. p. B3.
  36. 1 2 3 Loeb, Vernon; Powell, Michael (August 27, 1997). "A Critical D.C. Agency Fails to Mind Its Affairs: Regulations Unenforced, Fees Uncollected". The Washington Post. p. A1.
  37. Williams, Vanessa (September 15, 1997). "D.C. Council Confirms Its Critics' Fears". The Washington Post. p. C1.
  38. 1 2 Mendelson, Phil (February 1, 1998). "Roadblock to Real Reform..." (op-ed). The Washington Post. p. C10.
  39. 1 2 3 Williams, Vanessa (February 12, 1998). "Activist Asks Control Board To Overturn Bill: Request Angers Council, Home Rule Advocates". The Washington Post. p. DC1.
  40. 1 2 3 Ferster, Andrea; Mendelson, Phil (April 26, 1998). "...And One That Needs To Stay on the Books" (op-ed). The Washington Post. p. 48.
  41. Vise, David A. (May 29, 1998). "D.C. Board Caps Term by Easing Business Rules". The Washington Post. p. A1.
  42. "Civic Activist Seeks At-Large Seat". The Washington Post. June 14, 1998. p. B3.
  43. 1 2 Williams, Vanessa (August 19, 1998). "At-Large Candidates Criticize Council on Schools". The Washington Post. p. B8.
  44. 1 2 3 Powell, Michael (September 6, 1998). "At-Large Candidates Try To Stand Out in a Crowd; Campaigners Stress Ideas to Bolster Business Community, D.C. Council". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  45. "For D.C. Council" (editorial). The Washington Post. September 10, 1998. p. A22.
  46. "Phil Mendelson". The Washington Post. September 12, 1998. p. DC6.
  47. Powell, Michael; Cottman, Michael H. (September 16, 1998). "Williams Wins Mayoral Primary: District's Ex-Finance Chief Trounces Democratic Field". The Washington Post. p. A1.
  48. Montgomery, David (October 8, 1998). "After 3 Weeks, Barry Backs Entire Democratic Slate". The Washington Post. p. B1.
  49. "At Large: Wilbourn & Catania" (editorial). The Washington Post. October 23, 1998. p. A26.
  50. Montgomery, David (November 4, 1998). "Mendelson, Catania Win: Veteran Council Member Hilda Mason Is Ousted". The Washington Post. p. A35.
  51. "Result Chart: District of Columbia". The Washington Post. November 4, 1998. p. A37.
  52. Williams, Vanessa (January 3, 1999). "7 Members Sworn In, Altering D.C. Council; Lawmakers Promise to Bolster Oversight". The Washington Post. p. B4.
  53. Williams, Vanessa (January 5, 1999). "Council Names Committee Chairmanships". The Washington Post. p. B4.
  54. 1 2 Pyatt, Rudolph A., Jr. (January 21, 1999). "Work Here, Hire Here—Or Pay Dearly". The Washington Post. p. E3.
  55. Williams, Vanessa (February 8, 1999). "Study Urges D.C. Council to Reorganize". The Washington Post. p. B4.
  56. "Fast Decision Urged on Children's Island Park". The Washington Post. February 14, 1999. p. C3.
  57. 1 2 "Certified Results, General Election, 2002". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. November 21, 2002.
  58. 1 2 "Certified Results, General Election, 2006" (PDF). District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. November 21, 2006.
  59. 1 2 "Certified Results, General Election, 2010". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. November 19, 2010.
  60. Wilber, Del Quentin; Craig, Tim (June 6, 2012). "D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown resigns after he is charged with bank fraud". The Washington Post.
  61. Craig, Tim (June 13, 2012). "Mendelson, Brown chosen to lead D.C. Council amid acrimonious debate". The Washington Post.
  62. Phipps-Evans, Michelle (November 15, 2012). "The Council Shuffle Begins". Washington Informer. Washington, D.C. p. 5.
  63. 1 2 DeBonis, Mike (August 1, 2008). "Political Potpourri". Washington City Paper.
  64. Timberg, Craig; Hsu, Spencer (November 21, 2002). "Status Quo Election Limits Council Members' Upward Mobility". The Washington Post. p. T2.
  65. Cottman, Michael H.; Chan, Sewell; Leonnig, Carol D. (August 10, 2000). "Adopting a Baby". The Washington Post. p. J2.
  66. "Certified Results, Primary Election, 1998". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. September 25, 1998.
  67. "Certified Results, General Election, 1998". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. November 13, 1998.
  68. "Certified Results, Primary Election, 2002". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. September 20, 2002.
  69. "Certified Results, Primary Election, 2006" (PDF). District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. September 26, 2006.
  70. "Certified Results, Primary Election, 2010". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. September 29, 2010.
  71. "Certified Results, Primary Election, 2014". District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. April 23, 2014.
Council of the District of Columbia
Preceded by
Hilda Mason
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia

Succeeded by
Anita Bonds
Preceded by
Kwame Brown
Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
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