OUTstanding Virginians 2010

Paul Smedberg

Elected Official

It seems that Paul Smedberg was born running to be elected to some political office or other. In high school he served as the student representative to the local school board, and soon he was serving as an intern to the Connecticut legislature. After graduating college with degrees in history and economics and moving to Northern Virginia, it wasn’t long before he was running again for office, this time to become a member of the Alexandria City Council. When he won that election in 2003, Paul became only the second openly gay man to be elected in the state of Virginia. Soon he was serving on a plethora of important committees which determine the quality of life in his adopted city: the Alexandria Marketing committee as well as the Economic Sustainability Committee, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission as well as the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board. Consistently he has championed fiscal efficiency and budgetary transparency. Not surprisingly for the years 2010-2011 he will be co-chairing the Alexandria Strategic Plan Committee. And, as if that load of committee responsibility were not enough, he currently directs public policy at the American Society of Nephrology. Responding to Paul’s devotion to bettering his community, a citizen recently wrote in a letter to the local newspaper evaluating “his role on Council and his pursuit of defining and refining the role government”  as “exemplary.” Perhaps this devotion to bettering his community has led to Alexandria recently being voted one of the fifty “Most Fabulous” places in the US for gays and lesbians to live.

While so successfully serving the needs of his Northern Virginia community Paul has not overlooked ways that he as an important political figure could benefit the LGBT community. For nine years as a medical service volunteer he worked at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D. C. Long active in Democratic Party politics, he served two terms as its Chair in Alexandria. He was well known enough by 2007, on a more humorous note, to be “outed” in the Toledo Young Republicans’ blog alongside 30 other openly gay elected politicians because  an ally of that notorious U.S.Representative Barney Frank! In 2008 Paul attended the party’s national convention in Denver where, among the 385 other gay and lesbian delegates, he made history by nominating Barack Obama to be president. As a participant in the Stonewall Democrats caucus at the convention, Paul used his political muscle to advocate for a national gay rights agenda for the soon-to-be president to act on. It was with satisfaction that last October Paul attended the 13th annual Human Rights Campaign dinner to hear this president re-affirm his commitment to the agenda he had helped formulate in Denver. In Paul’s words, the president hit “all the marks that he should be hitting.” It was with even greater satisfaction that he observed Obama signing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill the same month. From the beginning of his career as an out politician, the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed Paul Smedberg’s efforts to get elected. They now count him among at least 427 LGBT politicians openly serving in elective public office in the USA.

As he looks forward to continuing his career as an elected community leader, Paul feels pride in the support he has garnered from the entire city of Alexandria. He puts it this way: “I am proud of…being elected to the Alexandria Council three times in the past seven years. I am proud of my adopted home that the voters elected me knowing I am an openly gay man.” But, as a realist, he is also aware in the light of the Virginia Attorney General’s recent letter, that equal rights are not equally distributed throughout the Commonwealth. “Sadly,” he writes, “change seems to regress. I hope that together we work to achieve parity for all throughout this Commonwealth so that the kind of actions we have recently witnessed are never again tolerated.”