By PETE DELEA
Daily News-Record 2/12/19
HARRISONBURG— When Deanna Reed attended a Harrisonburg City Council meeting for the first time five years ago, her main concern was school overcrowding.
However, when she looked around the council chambers, she noticed a consistent theme: men.
As someone who mentors youth as a passion and a career, she said, something needed to change. She lobbied women she knew to run for council, but had no luck. So, she ran herself.
“I truly believe that young people need to see people that look like them in leadership roles,” Reed said. “It motivates me every day to serve.”
Reed, 52, went on to win a seat on council in November 2016 and took office in January 2017. Her peers selected her as mayor. She became the city’s first black female council member and mayor.
For her leadership, Reed was among seven people to receive the 2019 Strong Men and Women in Virginia History award. She was honored during award ceremony Thursday at the Richmond Marriott. The awards are given out annually by the Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation to honor black Virginia residents who rose to the position of leadership in their fields.
“I’m deeply grateful,” Reed said. “I really appreciate them honoring me.”
Among those honored were Gladys B. West, a mathematician and educator from King George Count;, Kwame Alexander, a writer and youth advocate from Fairfax County; and the late William T. Stone, a judge and civic leader from Williamsburg.
West was among a team that developed the modern GPS.
“I couldn’t believe I was among those trailblazers,” Reed said.
The mayor was recognized for her leadership and mentorship.
Reed is the director of the On The Road Collaborative after-school program, offered at Skyline and Thomas Harrisonburg middle schools and Harrisonburg High School.
On The Road Collaborative is a 10- week enrichment course each semester for students designed to introduce them to future careers.
Karen Thomas, president of the Northeast Neighborhood Association, said she was pleased Reed was chosen for the award.
“She’s a trailblazer for the community,” Thomas said. “She’s bold enough to step out and vote for the right things.”
Many people, she said, don’t realize the hard work Reed does because she’s so humble.
“She’s passionate about her work for the city,” Thomas said. “She doesn’t want credit for it.”
As part of the award, Reed was allowed to select a nonprofit to receive a $5,000 donation from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.
She chose NENA.
“It’s my neighborhood,” Reed said. “They’re doing great things.”
Thomas said the funding will likely be split between NENA’s two top projects.
The organization is working to turn Broad Street Mennonite Church into a community center. The association also owns the home next door, which once belonged to Roberta Webb.
Webb was a black teacher in the early 1900s and is credited for starting the first child care center in the historically black Northeast neighborhood.
The organization also is in the process of restoring the Dallard/Newman House on Kelley Street. It plans to convert it into a museum, library and headquarters for the nonprofit association.
Former slaves Ambrose and Reuben Dallard built the home in 1895 in the area, known then as Newtown.
The house once served as the residence of George A. Newman, a teacher and principal at the former Effinger School.