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Since graduating from the College of William & Mary in 1975, Barbara Ramsey has maintained a presence in Williamsburg even as her career took her to various cities around the world.
Now Ramsey, 62, is looking to take her experience from traveling the world to City Council. She is one of five candidates vying for three seats.
“We live in a global world,” Ramsey said. “As nice as it is to have people running for City Council who have lived here and have an investment in the city, we also have people from all over the world living here and I think having a little exposure to that is another benefit that I bring.”
Two years after graduating college, Ramsey bought the Griffin Avenue house she lived in as a student. Her sales and marketing career with Thomasville Furniture moved her around the country and eventually to Germany, where she lived a cumulative 15 years as the company’s sole representative to Europe.
But she never gave up her home on Griffin Avenue.
Ramsey, who currently works as a contractor with Colonial Williamsburg’s Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, rented it out while she lived elsewhere, tore down and rebuilt her house in 2007, then moved back to the City of Williamsburg in 2009 when her company had a job opening in the area.
“I always liked Williamsburg. I had friends here. It was familiar and it was a place I wanted to come back to,” said Ramsey, who owns and rents out another house on Griffin Avenue she bought when her nephew attended William & Mary in 2001. “I didn’t think about all the other things people think about when they’re looking for a place to retire because I didn’t have to. Williamsburg, obviously, is a great place to retire.”
Keeping Williamsburg relevant and vibrant is the most important task facing City Council, Ramsey said. If elected, she wants to support programming initiatives that have the potential to “create buzz” in the city.
In addition to offering her verbal support for creative programming, Ramsey is a proponent of using tools like the Tourism Contingency Fund – money allocated in the city’s budget to support the marketing efforts of new programs – so the city can reap the benefits of hosting successful events in the city.
“If you’ve got a vibrant core, it just reverberates out,” Ramsey said. “If you get that buzz downtown and it’s a place people want to be, then causes people to sort of spread naturally to other parts of the city.”
Ramsey supports the city’s current focus on redevelopment as a strategy to spur economic growth, as the city’s small size – 9 square miles, with the College and Colonial Williamsburg accounting for more than 40 percent – leaves the city with few options for revitalizing languishing corridors, she said.
Though she is currently unsure of specific tactics the city should use to encourage redevelopment, she wants City Council to place an emphasis on the area of the Williamsburg Shopping Center at the intersection of Monticello Avenue and Richmond Road.
With her experience on the city’s Neighborhood Relations Committee, tasked with improving the quality of life in neighborhoods, Ramsey said she believes she can bring to the board a needed new perspective on town-gown relations.
As the landlord of one property on Griffin Avenue, which has a high percentage of student renters, Ramsey has helped organize a neighborhood picnic for the past five years. She sees the picnic as an educational opportunity for both long-term residents and students and would like to see that sort of outreach emulated at the city level.
Her appreciation for community stems from her childhood in Dayton, Va., she said. Ramsey’s parents, both of whom worked, made deliberate decisions that sometimes limited their career advancement opportunities because sense of place was important to them.
Growing up in a town with a population of about 1,000 people, Ramsey learned lasting lessons in neighborliness from a community that “knew each other, cared about each other, borrowed from each other.
At the age of 13, Ramsey had a paper route for her first job, which she credits for helping to shape both her work ethic and her independence – both of which are particular points of pride for Ramsey, who created a robust sales career for herself that allowed her to travel the world, largely on her own.
Despite her travels, she has maintained the sense of community involvement she learned growing up.
Much of Ramsey’s involvement in Williamsburg has stemmed from her connection to the college through the Tribe Club, Campus Kitchen and the Lord Botetourt Affair, which she recently co-chaired. Never one to shy away from volunteering her time, she typically has not aspired to hold leadership positions.
“I’ve never been accused of being a quiet person, but I’ve also never had a strong desire to be in the limelight,” Ramsey said. “I think people lead in different ways. For me, I tend to get things done by being more of a collaborator and being a nice person. It doesn’t hurt to be nice.”