One of Washington’ D.C.’s leading civic advocacy organizations is undergoing a leadership change. Former D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon recently stepped down as the chairman of the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), a non-profit dedicated to the promotion and development of the Anacostia section of Ward 8. Dixon made his departing remarks to an audience of 60 people at Anacostia High School May 30.
“It has been the honor of my life to lead ACC,” Dixon said. “We started this organization in 1983 because we wanted to get the Anacostia Metro Station built and we helped to do that. After accomplishing that, we asked ourselves ‘What next?’ We decided to continue to advocate on behalf of Anacostia.”
Dixon grew up in the Anacostia neighborhood on Shannon Place, S.E. where Savoy Elementary School sits presently. He moved to Ward 4 and was elected to serve in the first D.C. Council that convened in 1975.
Dixon was the second chairman of the D.C. Council, serving from 1979-1983. He briefly accepted an appointment to the council as an at-large member from the D.C. Democratic State Committee from August 1997-December 1997, taking the position of Linda Cropp who had become chairman of the legislative body.
Dixon was defeated in a special election for the position by Republican David Catania. Since leaving office in 1983, Dixon has managed his consulting firm, Arrington Dixon and Associates, located on Shannon Place, S.E.
Under Dixon’s leadership, ACC has grown into an organization known for its advocacy for Anacostia and Ward 8 residents. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), every D.C. mayor since Marion Barry and almost every council member in the past 20 years has attended and spoken at the organization’s last Tuesday of the month meetings.
Its signature fundraising event, a boat ride on the Potomac River in September, is an event political officeholders and activists have attend for networking and socializing for the past 24 years.
ACC has taken steps to advocate the modernizing of the Barry Farm housing complex, revived Ward 8 civic associations, served as a strong supporter of Ballou High School, and sponsors the annual Anacostia community Back-to-School event in August. The organization has donated thousands of dollars to Ward 8 causes and non-profits throughout the years.
However, Dixon said it was time to pass the mantle. “Change is good for anyone,” he said. “It is time for change at ACC and I have resigned as chairman. Don’t worry, I will still be around and attend meetings but I will be as a participant.”
ACC gets its money from the dues it collects from members, ranging from individuals to non-profits and corporations. At times, Dixon’s business has had to step in to financially help operations.
Philip Pannell, the executive director of the ACC managing its daily operations, told the AFRO that, contrary to talk in the community, he doesn’t want to take Dixon’s place. Pannell is a well-known civic, social, and political activist throughout the city and has run for public office several times.
“No, no that is not my decision,” Pannell said. “That decision will be made by the board of directors. I hope to remain as executive director.”
Whatever leadership position Pannell has, he has the strong support of former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen. “I am looking forward to a smooth transition at ACC,” Allen, who represented Ward 8 on the council from 1996-2005, told the AFRO. “Phil and Arrington have worked together well for 20 years and I am confident Phil will continue to implement the ongoing mission of ACC.”
Allen said that Pannell, as executive director, will continue to keep ACC as a voice of Anacostia and Ward 8 in the coming years. “ACC is already a moving force,” she said. “With Phil in charge, I suspect that the ACC will be more visible.”
Pannell has been a candidate for the Ward 8 State Board of Education and participated in Ballou’s PTA as well as raised funds for its band to travel. Jacque Patterson, a former president of the Ward 8 Democrats, who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the ward, told the AFRO that he expects that education will get more of a focus as Pannell takes on a broader public role.
“I am comfortable with Philip,” Patterson said. “He is focused on making sure that our kids get a quality education. With the number of schools, charter and public, in this ward, he will be diligent in seeing that our kids are getting properly educated.”
Pannell said he will serve as the interim chairman until the board of directors choose its chairman, which is expected to occur within the month of June.