Looking Out for the Neighbors

Do you recognize this turkey? That’s Mark Riley, the Chief Turkey (otherwise known as the Race Director) of the Arlington Turkey Trot. For the past six years Mark has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local nonprofits that provide food, shelter, and more for Arlington residents. He recently added his name to the Arlington For Everyone campaign in support of affordable housing.

Do you recognize this turkey? That’s Mark Riley, the Chief Turkey (otherwise known as the Race Director) of the Arlington Turkey Trot. For the past six years Mark has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local nonprofits that provide food, shelter, and more for Arlington residents. He recently added his name to the Arlington For Everyone campaign in support of affordable housing.

Mark Riley remembers what it felt like when he thought he might have to leave Arlington.

“We were scared to death.”

“If not for my father we would be in another place,” Mark said. For the following year and half after he lost his job, his father helped Mark and his wife with their mortgage.

That was eight years ago when he and many others were working to recover from the "down" economy that began in 2008.

Mark grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, met his wife, Susie, at college in Tucson, and came to Arlington to pursue work focused on the needs of vulnerable children and their families.

After renting for fifteen years (rent at their first place at Washington-Lee Apartments was $300 a month) they purchased their home in 1994.

Mark loves his Arlington Forest neighborhood. His house is the first on a cul-de-sac and his neighbors have dubbed him the “honorary mayor.” It’s a familial place with block parties, holiday parties, and neighbors who care about each other but “keep a respectful distance.”

He also loves the “proximity to everything and anything you would like to have at your beck and call. At the same time, you can access the country quickly if you’re so inclined.” He laughed and added, “unless you choose to exit during rush hour.”

Now, Mark continues to advocate for others who are at risk of having to leave Arlington due to the shortage of affordable houses and apartments. He recently attended an event about Amazon coming to the area and met a gentleman who was concerned about being pushed out.

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“He was so upset as we were leaving,” Mark said. “He lamented, ‘Where are the elderly people like me going to end up? We’re not going to be able to stay here anymore.’ I will not soon forget this guy.”

Mark added his name to the Arlington For Everyone campaign because he wanted to continue speaking up for those who are at risk of being priced out of Arlington—especially those who have lived here for decades just as he has.

“It’s wrong, especially in this county with all our wealth and largesse. We need to be working smarter and strategically, especially now, to come up with solutions instead of casting families aside and saying, ‘the market forces are so big, and not everybody can live in Arlington.’”