DAAV Spotlight: Grace Han Wolf, Councilmember for the Town of Herndon
Grace Han Wolf is the first Korean American woman elected to office in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Serving her third term on the Herndon Town Council, Wolf represents the town as advisory director on the Committee for Dulles Board of Directors and as a member of the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission. In 2014, Wolf was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Virginia Commission for the Arts as Commissioner and was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Arts Council of Fairfax, as well as the Fairfax County Park Authority. Wolf is an active member of the regional AAPI community and one of the founding members of the Jade Philanthropy Society, which aims to encourage and facilitate local philanthropy by Asian Americans in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. DAAV recently caught up with Wolf to learn more about her role as the Herndon Town Councilmember.
What are your daily responsibilities as an elected official?
It's an honor to be able to serve the community locally as well as regionally. As a Town Councilmember, our job is to run the municipality, which means we are responsible establishing Town government policy, acting upon local resolutions and ordinances, setting tax rates, approving the annual Town budget, appointing members to Town of Herndon Boards and Commissions and providing policy guidance for the Town Manager. On a day to day basis, that means meeting constituents and answering their email inquiries, providing information to our community, reading and researching for upcoming votes, representing the Town and its position to other elected officials, non profit organizations and community groups and events. As such, I serve as the Town's official representative on the Committee for Dulles board of directors, on the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission and on the Fairfax Park Authority Board.
What is something that you wish you knew before you entered office to do your job well?
There is a lot to learn when you are a newly elected official - much of which can be learned by attending or watching council meetings on a regular basis or by being appointed to a board or commission prior to being elected. The one thing that was the least familiar to me was zoning laws. There is a difference between learning how to campaign and learning how best to serve; zoning laws and permitting is one of those areas.
What does leadership in public service mean to you?
I believe in leading by example and always doing the right thing. As someone who is asked to represent everyone, including people who may not have voted for you nor may agree with you on issues, you have to find a way to what you believe is best for the community. The community has placed its trust in you to do the right thing on their behalf and your position must be one that reflects that trust. Sometimes it means not taking the most popular position or listening to the loudest voices.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role in the year ahead?
The Town of Herndon is focused on continuing to improve the quality of life, safety and services for our residents. Our long term projects include getting ready for the arrival of Metro, in the near term, we will be focusing on reinventing our historic downtown by attracting new development that will incorporate the arts and create a vibrant downtown made for work, live and play. On a personal note, leading by example is an important aspect of how I view my role in public service - with the added visibility of being one of the few elected AAPI women. It's important to set an example so that others can follow. If you can't see it, you can't be it! I hope to inspire young Asian Americans into public service and advocacy.
Grace Han Wolf currently resides in Herndon with her husband and daughter, who attends a Virginia university.