Phil Mendelson was first elected to the Council of the District of Columbia in November of 1998 as an At-Large Councilmember. He served the District in that role until June 2012 when, following the departure of the previous Council Chairman, Phil was selected by his colleagues to take over that role. In November 2012, District voters overwhelmingly elected Phil as Chairman of the Council. He was re-elected as Chairman, again overwhelmingly by District voters, in 2014.
As Chairman, Phil leads the Council on all legislative matters. Phil also presides over the Committee of the Whole, which has responsibility for the District’s annual budget, the Council’s relations with the federal government, Council appointments to various boards and commissions, as well as proposed changes to the District’s Charter. The Committee of the Whole also has a robust oversight role within the Council, including oversight over such entities and issue areas as: the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; the Office of Contracting and Procurement; Homelessness (jointly with the Committee on Health and Human Services) and the Interagency Council on Homelessness; the DC Auditor; the Board of Zoning Adjustment; the University of the District of Columbia and the University of the District of Columbia Community College; the District Department of Human Resources; the District of Columbia Retirement Board; Statehood advocacy and the New Columbia Statehood Commission; the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; the National Capital Planning Commission; the Office of Budget and Planning; the Office of the Chief Technology Officer; the Office of Employee Appeals; the Office of Planning; the Office of Public Private Partnerships; the Office of Zoning; the Public Employees Relations Board; the Tax Revision Commission; truancy (jointly with the Committee on Education); and the Zoning Commission.
In addition to his work on the Council, Phil is also active with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), an independent, regional association of elected officials from the District, Maryland, and Virginia. In 2014 Phil was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors for COG, a position he also held in 2004. In 2015, Phil was elected Chairman of the COG’s Transportation Planning Board, responsible for the formation of transportation plans and projects in the National Capital Region. He also held this position in 2002, 2005, and 2008. He has served in various other leadership positions throughout his tenure at COG and continues to work with regional colleagues to further the common goals and interests in moving the region forward.
Prior to becoming Chairman, Phil served eight years as Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary. In this role he was responsible for oversight of the District’s public safety agencies–including the Metropolitan Police Department, Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia–as well as legislation impacting criminal laws in the District. As Chair of this Committee, Phil conducted robust oversight over the operations and budget of those agencies under his jurisdiction, and guided numerous public safety measures through the Council. Among the numerous bills approved by the Council during his term as Chair were: a number of omnibus public safety measures; reform of, and updates to, the District’s gun laws (in response to the Supreme Court’s Heller decision and subsequent, corresponding litigation); marriage equality; medical marijuana legislation; the establishment of an elected Attorney General; and an overhaul of the District’s drunk driving laws.
Phil has been an active participant in District politics since 1975, when he became a member of the McLean Gardens Residents’ Association. In this role he was a large part of the effort to save the 43-acre housing complex from destruction. In 1979 Phil successfully ran for a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and continued to serve as an ANC Commissioner until he took office as an At-Large Member of the Council.
Phil believes that government should be an honest, efficient deliverer of services, and that the District should help those least able to help themselves to develop the skills to become self-sufficient and end the cycle of poverty. Phil believes that government must accomplish this without increasing the tax burdens already shouldered by our middle income residents. Throughout his years of public service, Phil has maintained that the District, as the nation’s capital, should be a model of service delivery–in public education, public safety, and public health.
Phil came to the District from Cleveland, Ohio in 1970 to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from American University. He grew up in a family dedicated to public service. His mother was a national crusader for nursing home reform. His grandmother had been President of the Michigan State League of Women Voters, was appointed by President Roosevelt to the Federal Office of Price Administration, and was a founder of the Grand Rapids Urban League.
Phil has an adorable daughter Adelaide, who attends DC Public Schools. He lives in Southeast DC.