One of Ward 8’s most respected businesswomen has decided to take on a new role in her organization and life, but has made it clear that she has no interest in becoming a member of the D.C. Council.
Monica Ray, the executive director of the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation (CHCTDC), announced this month that she will leave her post in late August. Ray, 50, and a resident of the Congress Heights neighborhood that sits in Ward 8, said, however, her retirement will be untraditional.
“I will not sit at home or travel the world like most people who are retired,” said Ray. “I have held two positions with the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation and those have been executive director and president. I will step aside as the executive director.”
Ray joined the CHCTDC in 1993 after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“The people I knew wanted to go two places after they finished college,” Ray said. “It was either Atlanta or Washington, D.C. I didn’t know anyone in Atlanta, but I had an aunt in D.C. So, I came to D.C.”
Ray had plans to attend the George Washington School of Law but Phinis Jones, the president of the Capitol Services Management Inc., and a longtime board member of the CHCTDC, talked her into coming to work with him. Ray said when she joined CHCTDC, Congress Heights had struggled as an economically viable neighborhood.
“Congress Heights was located in the forgotten area of town,” she said. “For the first 25 years working here, I had to work to get the neighborhood recognized. You have to keep in mind that when downtown is broke, Congress Heights is on life support.”
CHCTDC has successfully completed the renovation of the Old Congress Heights School and it presently operates as a campus of the University of the District of Columbia. The employment and entrepreneurial programs it operates have placed hundreds into jobs throughout the D.C. region and helped people start their own businesses. When Ray took the job as executive director, the budget for CHCTDC came out to $500,000 but presently, it sits at $10 million.
Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), speaks highly of Ray.
“There is so much that can be said about Monica Ray,” Pannell, 72, said. “February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month and Monica represents the intersectionality between those two months.”
Former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8) has known Ray for decades and credits her work in Congress Heights.
“I can hardly believe the great things she has done,” Allen, 79, said. “She came up with the slogan ‘Congress Heights Soul of the City.’ Monica Ray is the soul of the city. We thank you for all you have done.”
Cora Masters Barry, the former first lady of the District, said Ray is the best kept secret in town.
“Monica is significant, rational and reasonable,” Barry, 77, said. “If she says it, I believe it. She is fair, thoughtful, not petty and not personal. She is a unique person.”
Tim White, who worked as the equitable development director in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, will take Ray’s place as the CEO of CHCTDC. White, 40, said he finds Ray to be inspirational.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” White, who resides in Congress Heights, said. “It is good to have a mentor like her around. I will be able to bounce ideas off of her.”
Ray has been active in Ward 8 in such capacities as the vice chair of the ACC, founder and chair of the Cedar Hill Academy and the Community College Preparatory Academy, chair of the Congress Heights Destination Main Street, and as a leader in the Congress Heights Community Association.
Talk has emerged in ward political circles that Ray is interested in the Ward 8 council seat, with the election taking place next year.
“I have heard talk that the reason I am stepping down as executive director is due to my running for the Ward 8 council seat,” she said. “Let me make it clear I am not running. I have no interest in that.”