September 17, 2018 at 11:11 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lesbian deputy mayor to step down for new opportunity
Courtney Snowden, gay news, Washington Blade

Courtney R. Snowden is leaving her job on Sept. 21. (Photo courtesy of the Raben Group)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Friday that Courtney R. Snowden, her Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity since April 2015, will be leaving her job as of Sept. 21 “to pursue a new career opportunity outside of District government.”

Snowden, a lesbian who has worked on LGBT rights issues in previous private sector jobs, has served in her current job as Bowser’s highest-ranking openly LGBT appointee.

The mayor’s announcement didn’t disclose where Snowden would be working when she leaves her deputy mayor’s position on Sept. 21, and Snowden couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

In a press release making the announcement, Bowser praised Snowden for her groundbreaking work in fulfilling the mission of a newly created position intended to boost economic development in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River that had the city’s highest rates of unemployment and fewer sources of employment such as small businesses compared to other parts of the city.

“Courtney R. Snowden served as the District’s first-ever Deputy Mayor of Greater Economic Opportunity, and I don’t think I could have appointed a better person to build this post from the ground up and deliver for our residents,” Bowser said. “Courtney has been a trailblazer, forging pathways to the middle class for residents who needed someone to believe in them and give them a fair shot.”

The mayor’s press secretary, La Toya Foster, told the Washington Post that Snowden’s departure was not related to Snowden being the subject of at least two ethics investigations since May 2017 and that Snowden was not asked to step down.

Although Snowden was not cited for violating ethics rules, the city’s Inspector General in the spring of 2017 named Snowden as being among several city government officials who were given preferential treatment in 2015 by then D.C. Schools Superintendent Kaya Henderson by allowing their kids to be enrolled in prestigious schools without having to be placed on a long waiting list or a lottery.

Henderson disputed claims that her actions violated ethics rules. She said Snowden was among a number of parents, including those not associated with the D.C. government, who applied for a waiver of the school waiting lists based on a program Henderson said she created for children with special circumstances.

“The opportunity to petition the school chancellor for a waiver is available to all District parents,” mayoral spokesperson Kevin Harris said at the time. “Deputy Mayor Snowden did what any parent would do by pursuing every available option when her child faced a challenge,” he said.

In separate matter, the Inspector General’s Office in November 2017 issued a report saying Snowden violated D.C. personnel rules in 2015 when she reportedly instructed her staff to engage in babysitting duties for her son during working hours. The Washington Post reported that Bowser informed the IG’s Office that Snowden “admitted her conduct was not appropriate and expressed remorse” and that the mayor remained confident in Snowden’s ability to do her job.

Robert Raben, founder and CEO of the Raben Group, a D.C.-based progressive public policy and communications firm where Snowden worked before becoming deputy mayor, said Snowden was not returning there. But he said whoever works with her would be lucky.

“Courtney sees around corners, figures out how to get to where you want to go in ways you would not have dreamed,” Raben told the Washington Blade. “That, coupled with a singular ability to connect with anyone, and I mean anyone, of all stripes and types, makes her pretty much a rock star,” he said. “I learned an enormous amount from her.”

Prior to working at the Raben Group, Snowden worked as a legislative assistant for then-U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), as a political aide for the Human Rights Campaign, and as federal and national policy manager for the New York City-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), where she worked on policies to prevent anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination in schools.

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

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