Longest Serving County Board Member
In 1973, Ellen Bozman first ran for the Arlington County Board under the slogan “Let’s keep Arlington a good place to live…and make it better.”
During her tenure from 1974 to 1997 as the longest-serving county board member to date, Bozman’s dedicated service and ingenuity fulfilled this goal. Her foresight and leadership guided Arlington as it transitioned from a suburban enclave to a bustling urban community, as she advocated for controlled development, instituting services for the elderly and children, and open government.
Ellen Bozman moved to the area after graduating with a degree in political science from Northwestern University in Illinois in 1946.
After working for the U.S. Bureau of Budget from 1947-1952, Bozman became active in civic affairs in Arlington in the early 1950s through the League of Women Voters, and she conducted public education campaigns to assist with the integration of Arlington Public Schools. Before joining the county board, she gained experience serving several county commissions in the 1960s and early 1970s.
While on the Planning Commission she guided the revitalization of Clarendon’s commercial center in preparation for the incoming Metrorail; advocated for non-discriminatory County hiring policies on the Community Relations Committee; and led a study to develop childcare services for families with full-time working parents as chair of the Health and Welfare Council. She quipped in an oral history, “Finally in the early ‘70s I chaired the Rock Springs Congregational Church Council. About that time, some of my friends jokingly said, ‘Well since you’ve done a church council, you’re ready to run for the Board.’”
In 1973, Bozman ran as an Independent candidate for the Arlington County Board. She captured more than 50% of the vote in a 3-way race, becoming the first woman elected to the board since 1958.
Her early initiatives included improving standards for child care, ensuring the development of the first nursing homes in Arlington, and advocating for tenants’ rights and affordable housing. Her prior planning experience gave Bozman the skills to control development in Metro corridors, allowing apartments and condominiums, single-family dwellings, parks, and recreation areas to remain.
Bozman explained in an oral history “if the county did nothing, if we let development progress as it normally would in the Metro corridors, the two corridors would be nothing but offices. The land was all zoned for office use and that's what we would have had.”
She led the County Board as chairman several times, in 1976, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1997. Over the years, she supported other initiatives that remain popular in Arlington, including the first Arlington Farmers market and Neighborhood Day.
Bozman chose not to run for re-election in 1997. She remained active in county community affairs until her death in 2009, including co-founding the Alliance for Housing Solutions, a nonprofit working to increase affordable housing in the county.