Above: Arkan Haile, a candidate for the vacant at-large D.C.
City Council seat. The special election is set for Tue., Apr 26.
By Tadias Staff
Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
New York (Tadias) – We were recently contacted by the campaign of Arkan Haile, a candidate for the vacant at-large D.C. City Council seat, which will be decided through a special election on April 26. He is among at least 17 candidates running for the seat, which became vacant Jan. 2 when Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) was sworn in as the new City Council Chair. The Eritrean-born attorney is seeking the support of the Ethiopian-American community, one of the largest African immigrant populations in Washington D.C.
“I know my personal story is not ordinary for a local politician. Frankly, I hope nothing about me is ordinary where politics is concerned,” he says. “We can’t afford the usual politics – not in our schools, not in our neighborhoods and not in our elected officials. That’s why I’m running as an independent, beholden to no one but the people, ready to find creative solutions and prepared to make hard choices.”
Arkan is a successful lawyer and father of two children. He immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1981 when he was 10 years old, and became the Co-Founder of Gray Haile LLP, a corporate law firm which specializes in mergers, acquisitions, and securities with offices in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.
He was born in Eritrea in 1971. In 1975, his parents came to the US on his father’s graduate school scholarship to study Economics at Colorado State University. But they left behind their three young children, including Haile (the oldest at four) as insurance against defection. In 1978 his mother returned to Ethiopia and three years later, in December 1981, after a difficult journey that included a trek through Sudan on foot and mostly at night, the family was reunited in Ft. Collins, Colorado — the state where Haile grew up and attained his education. He says: “I was born in Asmara and spent three years in Addis before our family settled in Colorado in the early 1980s when I was ten years old.”
Haile currently lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Nazrawit (Naz) Medhanie, and their son and daughter, ages four and one. His wife is a performance monitoring specialist with an international development firm. She graduated from Duke University, where she was a shooting guard on the basketball team and member of the school’s first women’s Final Four team in 1999.
“As a parent of a public school child, Co-Founder of a district-based law firm and a home owner, I’m fully committed to our city,” he says. “As a lawyer and former financial analyst, I have the skills and work experiences ideally suited for the job of a City Council member.”
On his campaign web site, the candidate also acknowledges the uphill battle he faces in the upcoming poll: “My background is not typical of a city council candidate. I’m not backed by a particular party, power broker or interest group. I’m running as an independent because that is how I make decisions. I know that makes me an underdog in this race, but that’s ok. I’ve been an underdog my whole life and it hasn’t stopped me yet.”
But he also notes that his professional experience in finance and law, coupled with his experiences as an immigrant, will help him bring a fresh perspective to solving the District’s budget woes, as well as ability to focus on matters confronting the city’s struggling communities.
“There are several issues but on top of the list are education and fiscal responsibility; education because it is so central and fundamentally important to our existence as a city, and fiscal responsibility because it is the biggest and most immediate challenge facing the city and the City Council,” Haile said in a recent Q & A with Tadias Magazine. “As a parent of a public school child I’ve got a little more “skin in the game” than most…we’ve made great strides in education over the past several years and I want to ensure to my best abilities as a member of the Council that we don’t lose momentum.”
And how is his professional skills suited to solving D.C.’s economic problems? “Fiscally, my skills and professional experiences are especially well suited to tacking it in the most efficient and responsible manner. I’ve either worked in or studied law and finance over the course of my entire 20-year, adult life. Before law school, I earned an MBA and worked as a financial analyst for a large corporation.”
“What separates you from the other candidates?” we asked. “Why should people vote for you?” “I see the two questions as being virtually the same,” he said. “In other words people should vote for me, at least in large part, for the reasons that separate me from the field.” He adds: “First, I will bring 20 years of technical financial and legal expertise that I can apply from day one. It is all the more important now given our city’s financial mess. Second, I’m fully invested in our city. As a home owner, parent of a public school child (with another set to enroll next year), owner of a District-based law firm and DC Bar licensed attorney, there is little that goes on in the city that doesn’t directly affect me. Third, as an immigrant and somebody with a relatively unique personal history, I’ll add diversity to the City Council and serve as a sympathetic ear to immigrants in our city.”
If you have additional questions or want to get involved in Arkan Haile’s campaign, please contact the candidate via his website at www.arkanfordccouncil.com