December 20, 2014 at 6:28 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser names lesbian as director of Dept. of Housing
Polly Donaldson, housing, gay news, Washington Blade

Polly Donaldson talks to reporters after Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser named her as director of the D.C. Dept. of Housing and Community Development. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

D.C. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser announced on Saturday that she will nominate Polly Donaldson, an out lesbian and recognized expert in affordable housing and homeless-related programs, as director of the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The cabinet-level appointment requires confirmation by the City Council, an action that virtually all political observers believe the Council will take shortly after it begins its 2015 session.

Bowser announced the nomination at a Ward 8 town hall meeting organized by her mayoral transition team and held at the Thurgood Marshall Public Charter School in Anacostia.

“Polly has more than two decades of experience overseeing and managing affordable housing and homeless service programs,” Bowser said. “She is a smart, committed public servant who has what it takes to help give the residents of the District of Columbia a fresh start.”

The mayor-elect noted that Donaldson has served for the past two months as co-chair of the mayoral transition team’s Affordable Housing Committee.

Bowser also noted that in accepting her offer to head the city’s housing department Donaldson will be giving up her current job as executive director since 2004 of Transitional Housing Corporation, a widely acclaimed non-profit organization that provides services to homeless people and develops programs for transitioning them into permanent homes.

“We are so excited that Polly has accepted,” said Bowser. “Polly will be leaving a job that I know she loves.”

“I am so deeply honored and humbled to be asked to serve in this role,” Donaldson said. “Housing is my passion – affordable housing even more so.”

Donaldson, 57, was accompanied at the event by her wife, Susan Rees, and teenage daughter, Florence. She said she and her family live in Mt. Pleasant.

Biographical information released by the transition team says that prior to beginning her job as director of Transitional Housing Corporation, Donaldson worked for 17 years in the international community development field in senior management positions with several organizations. Among them were International Education, Partners of the Americas and The Center for Democracy. She has also served in the past as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1E in Mt. Pleasant.

In her next round of appointments Bowser was expected to name her choice for director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, a position currently held by Sterling Washington, who was appointed by outgoing Mayor Vincent Gray.

Bowser has said during her campaign for mayor that she is committed to include in the city’s annual budget no less than $100 million in funds to create affordable housing. She has said she’s also committed to strengthening city programs to curtail what observers have said is the growing number of homeless families in the city.

Donaldson told reporters after the Ward 8 town hall meeting that Bowser, among other things, wants her to improve the efficiency of the department and its wide range of programs for addressing homelessness.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • The rest of Mayor-elect Bowser's ENTIRE cabinet could be openly LGBT, and it would not make up for the homophobic and transphobic actions of Bowser's two most important EOM/cabinet appointees, Kaya Henderson and Cathy L. Lanier.
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    Together, her DCPS and MPD appointees have now linked the Bowser administration to de facto encouragement of anti-LGBT employment and promotion discrimination, anti-LGBT bullying and anti-LGBT policing.
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    The not-so-subtle messages of bias sent to LGBTQ students and anti-LGBTQ bullies alike in DC schools — or outside on DC's streets — is particularly despicable.
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    Muriel Bowser ought not let that stand. But she remains strangely silent and inactive regarding the homophobia and transphobia tacitly encouraged by her new appointees.
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