Neighbors is an occasional series, profiles of people who live in Bolton Hill, showing the talent and diversity of those who live among us. Nominations are welcome by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Damon Silvers, who moved to Bolton Hill early this year, lives a life that is a tale of three cities. Four, actually.
For much of the past two years he was not going into his office near the White House, where he is Senior Strategic Advisor and Special Counsel to the President of the AFL-CIO. Like most professionals, he was working from home in Takoma Park during the early COVID months.
The last two years were critical ones for the AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 unions representing some 12 million members. Silvers, 57, worked on the Biden Administration transition team that led up to the inauguration. He was involved, as well, in shaping the first Biden initiatives proposed to Congress, including labor law reform, the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill and the now House-passed Build Back Better package of social and economic reforms.
“Until the pandemic hit, living in the Takoma Park apartment was fine. I was working all the time, going out, traveling a lot. But suddenly I could not go out, could not travel, working all the time. It was like a prison cell. I decided I could afford a house, and after consulting my grown children and the woman I care most about, I came back to Bolton Hill, which I think is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the country. It reminds me of Church Hill in Richmond, where I lived and went to high school, with its grand old 19th century architecture. I love it.”
But he has a complicated life. In 2017 at a conference at the University of Texas at Austin, he met an “enchanting” woman, a member of Parliament from Newcastle, in northeast England. He asked her out on a date. He offered any city in Europe. She chose “the greatest city in the world,” Newcastle. That’s where Chinyelu (“Chi” ) Onwurah was raised by immigrant parents from Nigeria and Ireland, and which she now represents as a Labor Party member of the House of Commons, which meets year-around at Westminster, in London.
So, before the pandemic and during – as travel restrictions have allowed – Silvers has ping-ponged from Baltimore to D.C., commuting by car to the office, but also flying often to London and accompanying Chi home on weekends back to Newcastle. She has come to Baltimore, as well, most recently in September, but like many elected officials she is wary of being out of her district.
Silvers has done his job via the Internet from England, coping with the five-hour time difference. Chi, for her part, must show up, and so they go to London. She cannot cast Parliamentary votes or attend hearings online, and she is a shadow cabinet member in opposition to the government of Boris Johnson.
“Having the new house has been a blessing,” Silvers said. “On a nice day I can sit up on the roof deck and look out across the neighborhood. I’ve sailed a few times with friends, and with Chi once, on the Inner Harbor and I hope to get my own boat in the water in the spring. I hope to repeat last winter’s fabulous experiences cross-country skiing in Druid Hill Park.”
He lived in Bolton Hill in the 1990s, on the top floor of an old mansion. He was commuting then, too, to Delaware, where he was a law clerk at the Delaware Court of Chancery while his wife worked in Baltimore. He joined the AFL-CIO staff in 1997.
Silvers is a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School. He has two grown children, one a PhD student at Durham University, not far from Newcastle in Durham, England, and the other studying astrophysics at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.
– Bill Hamilton