Like most people, Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw relishes the time she spends with her family and is looking forward to the holidays when all of her children and grandchildren can be together.
“Our holiday traditions all center around food,” Greenlaw shares. “We love to cook. Standing rib roast is our Christmas dinner, with mushrooms stuffed with crab. We have turkey with all of the trimmings for Thanksgiving. We try to eat crabs as often as we can in the summertime.”
Greenlaw is the proud mother of four sons and seven grandchildren, who range in age from four to 26. Some of her grandchildren live locally while a few live in Maryland and Kentucky. She spends time with them as often as possible, particularly the younger ones.
She attends sports activities, dance recitals, and school events whenever she can.
“Some of my favorite things to do with them are to play games, and be with them and their families at sporting events and concerts,” Greenlaw says.
She also enjoys frequenting Kenmore Park and the Kenmore gardens and walking downtown with her youngest grandchildren.
“Since I have been mayor, my youngest grandchild goes with me to light the city Christmas tree,” Greenlaw adds.
When it comes to being a grandmother, Greenlaw suggests being there for your children and grandchildren while being careful not to overstep.
“Be accessible to listen. Be supportive. Be selective in advice giving,” Greenlaw advises. “I never give advice to my sons or daughters-in-law. But I do sometimes take advantage of the opportunity to pass along something I have learned to my grandchildren.”
It’s those qualities that she also uses in her role as mayor. A native of Fredericksburg, Greenlaw has been active in the community for years. She served on the planning commission for eight years and the city council for four years before being elected mayor in 2012.
“I ran for mayor because I enjoyed my time on the council,” she states. “My previous experience on the planning commission and other boards and commissions in the city gave me a good perspective on our city and its strengths and weaknesses. It seemed to all come together to be inevitable.”
Greenlaw has held numerous civic and volunteer roles throughout the years. She is a former chair of MediCorp Health System and currently serves on the board of the Mary Washington Health Foundation. She is also a former board member of the Thurman Brisben Center and a founding member of the Fredericksburg Festival of the Arts. Prior to becoming mayor, she owned Houston School of Dance, was a school teacher, and retired as a real estate agent and sales broker.
Now, she is enjoying running the city.
“The most rewarding part of the job is to meet the wonderful folks here who are doing so much for others and for the community,” the mayor says. “I welcome invitations that I receive to attend or speak at events. We are highly respected in the state of Virginia, and I am asked to sit on state boards and commissions.”
Greenlaw is also enjoying the success of the Main Street initiative, which works to preserve and enhance the history of Fredericksburg’s downtown area and make the community a better place to live, work, and play.
“Main Street has created an energy that is amazing,” she shares. “Our business and property owners downtown are a primary reason Fredericksburg has received so many accolades in recent years: best place to live, best quality of life, fourth most exciting city in Virginia. The leaders of the Main Street initiative took their time to organize and implement it right, and we are reaping the rewards in a viable, lively downtown.”
Supporting local businesses is vital to the community, Greenlaw says.
“Shopping local is important to the city, and especially to city taxpayers because the taxes received from sales taxes and lodging and meals tax pay for many of our city expenses, including our schools,” points out the mayor. “Because of this, we are able to keep our property taxes low and encourage folks to own homes in the city.”
As for Fredericksburg’s future, the mayor hopes to bring in more art and cultural events as well as businesses into the area.
“I want to continue to support our wonderful artists, both visual and performing, who are working hard to achieve a performing arts venue,” Greenlaw says. “We will also be hiring a new director of economic development, and I look forward to working with that person and the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance to attract companies to locate here. The best thing we can do for our quality of life and our transportation problems is to enable our commuters to work locally.”
Beyond Fredericksburg, Greenlaw’s other passion is dance. She is a member of the Sacred Dance Ensemble of Fredericksburg.
“I love music of all kinds, and my favorite possessions are my Sonos internet radio and my piano,” she says. “I also like to read mostly history and mysteries, and I love to travel. My personal goal is to do as much of that as I can between council meetings. As to my family, every moment I spend with them is precious, and I try to do so as much as possible.”
Mayor Greenlaw pictured in Downtown Fredericksburg with her granddaughter, Braelynn.