Doctor seeks to heal town-gown relations

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February 26, 2010

3:36 AM

David Dafashy, a physician at the Student Health Center, wants to be more than just your go-to guy for aches and afflictions; he wants to be your go-to guy at the Williamsburg City Council.

Dafashy officially declared his candidacy Feb. 12, following the announcements of Scott Foster ’10, Planning Commission member Sean Driscoll and incumbent Bobby Braxton.

Born and raised in Williamsburg, Dafashy attended Matthew Whaley Elementary School and many of the College’s homecoming parades, experiences that greatly influenced his perspective of the city.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, receiving a degree from VCU’s School of Medicine and completing his residency at the Mayo Clinic, he returned home. He is currently in his second year working at the campus’s Health Center.

“I’d always been interested in government … but I’d been particularly interested since moving back here in May of 2008,” Dafashy said. “It started when I was talking to a next-door neighbor about things happening around town and how they took place.”

His concerns in Williamsburg politics evolved from a few letters to the city council into a campaign defined by a broad range of issues that he feels the city needs to improve upon.

“I’m a really big environmentalist,” Dafashy said. “I want to work very hard to preserve Williamsburg’s natural environment.”

He plans to encourage residents and tourists alike to take advantage of the city’s parklands and recreational facilities.

Dafashy also hopes to enhance and promote the town’s historical assets to boost tourism, which has declined drastically in the past several years.

“Tourism is our largest industry,” Dafashy’s campaign director, Adam Rosen ’10, said. “Now is not the time to cut back on spending. These are tough economic times and everyone is cutting back. In a time like this, we need to do more.”

Rosen also addressed another issue posed by the current economic crisis: increasingly unaffordable housing and the deteriorating quality of life.

“[Dafashy] is concerned at times that the council isn’t looking forward enough to where the city is going,” Rosen said.

Williamsburg’s unemployment rate as of December 2009 was 3.2 percent higher than the national average, but Dafashy hopes to decrease that gap by boosting tourism. He asserts that he has an image of a greater Williamsburg and an effective strategy for keeping the community as well as the students informed and involved.

“I really think that open lines of communication are key. To me, it’s my job to elicit that information and get a growing sense of what students consider to be important to them,” he said.

As both a resident and staff member at the College, Dafashy says he will bring an open mind and a balanced perspective to a Council that seems, to many students, more town-friendly than gown-friendly.

When asked about town-gown relations and the recently revised three-person rule, Dafashy said that he thinks work still needs to be done.

“I am confident that both factions can work in a constructive way to come up with an agreeable compromise,” he said.

Dafashy’s strategy involves canvassing local neighborhoods, weekly meetings with campaigners and sessions with community and college organizations. He recently met with representatives Eric Robinson ’11 and T.D. Crowley ’13 of Students for a Better Williamsburg.

He looks forward to March 15, when his first campaign event will be held at the College and he hopes to gain student votes. In the end, he wants to serve the city’s dynamic community.

“Williamsburg is a combination of wisdom and experience with passion and intellectual ability,” Dafashy said.

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