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Don Peebles is still making his mind up about this whole running for mayor business. But in the meanwhile, he’s doing interviews with local reporters (see this exchange with Jonetta Rose Barras), and rubbing elbows at very high profile, invite-only events around town (okay Washington City Paper’s Adams Morgan holiday party.) Anyway, as promised, here’s some information on Peebles’ early days in D.C.—-straight from the source, his own 2007 autobiography.
Today I have projects in lots of other places around the country, including Miami, San Francisco, Detroit and Las Vegas, but it was in Washington—where I still own buildings—-that I honed my skills. It was in Washington, too, where I learned the art of politics.
In the early 1980s, Peebles wanted to start his own home appraisal business, but assumes he’ll need political connections “and clout” to be officially approved by HUD.
The year was now 1982. Mayor Barry was running for reelection, and I saw this as my opportunity. I would get involved by helping him get reelected…I started getting involved in Barry’s campaign by organizing events for him. My big day came when I held a “Meet the Mayor” event in the party room of my apartment building. The gathering was for residents of the area around Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street in Ward 3…Barry and his wife came, and I gave a speech introducing him. It cost all of about $1,000, and I got a couple of other people to cosponsor it with me.”
So yeah, Barry got elected again, and Peebles joins the Tax Appeal Board. Some time goes by and Peebles decides he wants to be chair of the board. He meets Barry in person to discuss the promotion.
I’ll never forget that day. I went into Barry’s office, the first time I’d ever been there, and it blew me away. It was huge, far bigger than any congressman’s office, overlooking the Washington Monument and the White House…I told him again I would work hard for him and do a good job…After the meeting, I learned that Barry had been elected president of the National Conference of Black Mayors and that they were going to be hold their midwinter conference in Washington. I talked to one of his aides and said “You know, Barry should hold a reception welcoming all these mayors to Washington.” Fine idea, the aide said, but who was going to pay for it? That’s when a light went on in my head. I said I’d raise the private dollars to do it.
Peebles eventually becomes chair of the property tax appeal board. Some 25-plus years go by, and now he’s worth $350 million, and Barry, suffice it to say, does not have those office views anymore.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery