Jody Acosta and Carla de la Pava, best of friends since childhood and interim treasurers of the City of Falls Church and Arlington County, respectively, sat in the Cosi on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington on Tuesday afternoon, having a friendly competition. “Please note that she’s older than me,” de la Pava said. Acosta is one year older than de la Pava. Coincidentally, both assumed their new positions in adjacent jurisdictions within days of each other earlier this month.
Later on, Acosta revels in the fact that she was the first out of the two of them to give birth. “Because she’s older,” de la Pava chimed in. “Darn it, I’ve got to get her on something,” Acosta said. “I did become treasurer before she did, but just saying,” de la Pava said, landing the final blow for that round as they both laughed out loud. “We’ve always been like this,’ Acosta said.
This friendly competition has been ongoing for almost five decades ago, since Acosta and de la Pava first met. “It was at the playground and I was going into the second grade and you were going into the third grade,” de la Pava said to Acosta. “Little did we know we’d become treasurers of adjoining districts within [almost] a week of each other.”
Welcome to the Neighborhood
A nine-year-old Jody Acosta was on a playground in Alexandria after moving to northern Virginia. Her mother passed away when she was a baby and her father was in the Air Force, so she was raised by
her mother’s grandparents in southwestern Virginia until moving to live with her newly remarried father and stepmother. Acosta said she had a thick Appalachian accent and the first few children she had met in her new neighborhood teased her for talking funny – she said her peers’ jeers made her “gun-shy.”
Then she met a seven-year-old Carla de la Pava, who welcomed her to the neighborhood without reservation. “She was like ‘Hi my name is Carla. What’s your name?’ and I said, ‘Jody’. She goes ‘You wanna play?’ and I was like ‘Okay’,” Acosta said with a chuckle. “You know, she didn’t make fun of my accent. So I was like ‘All right, I like her.’ And we became fast friends.”
De la Pava was raised by a single mother, Mary Frances de la Pava, who worked for different politicians on Capitol Hill, like President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin. The experience of being raised by a mother who worked in politics proved to be formative for both Carla and Jody. Jody said the impact Carla’s mother had on her as a female role model was vital.
“Until I moved up here I never knew a working mother. I mean, all the moms in the little town I grew up in stayed home with the kids and the dads went off to work,” Acosta said. Acosta, who had relatives who were involved in local politics in southwestern Virginia, always had an affinity for politics.
“So when I met Carla and her mom I was like, you know, so taken with her mom and the whole political world and all the stuff we did,” Acosta said. “We used to go down to the Senate with her mom when she had to go to work on Saturdays and it was just cool to me.”
Loyal Friends, Strong Alliance
Acosta began working in local politics with Citizens for a Better City, Falls Church City’s oldest non-partisan civic organization. That’s where she met Cathy Kaye, who asked Acosta to work as her chief deputy treasurer when she took over the treasurer’s office after four-term treasurer H. Robert Morrison resigned for health reasons in 2006.
In 2008, de la Pava was looking to get back into the workforce when Acosta recommended her, through Cathy Kaye, to fill an opening as Francis O’Leary’s chief of staff. According to de la Pava, another childhood friend of her and Acosta, Ellen Mackay, had previously worked in O’Leary’s office and talked up O’Leary and the job to de la Pava. Carla applied for the job in early 2008 and was hired in December 2008.
According to de la Pava, O’Leary jokingly called the effort to get her hired in O’Leary’s office the “Kaye Conspiracy.”
“There’s a loyalty to each other that goes back a long way,” Acosta said. “I think we have a lot of similar interests, you know, family, certainly. We both have three kids. They’re pretty close in age.”
The commonalities continued for the lifelong friends when both of their predecessors announced their resignations in late June. In Virginia, when an elected official steps down midterm, their next-in-line assumes the duties of their office until a special election is held to elect a new official to carry out the duties of the vacated position.
Because of this, de la Pava, who was Arlington’s chief deputy treasurer for nearly five years, was sworn in as Arlington’s interim treasurer on July 7 immediately after Francis O’Leary, who was Arlington’s treasurer for 30 years, resigned. Acosta was in attendance.
On July 16 Acosta, who served as Falls Church City’s chief deputy treasurer for nearly eight years, was sworn in as Falls Church City’s treasurer after Cathy Kaye, who resigned from the post for health reasons. Of course, de la Pava and her mother Mary Frances were there.
“It was a little surreal,” Carla said to Jody about seeing her get sworn in as interim treasurer. “To see you doing the same thing that I had done just the week before.”
Both Acosta and de la Pava are running for treasurer in the special elections in their respective municipalities, both of which are slated for later this year. Acosta has already been named the Democratic nominee in the Falls Church City race. De la Pava is expected to be the named the Democratic nominee at the Aug. 6 Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting, according to an e-mail from the ACDC. According to de la Pava, she and Acosta have already been helping each other on their burgeoning campaign trails.
“We talk strategy together,” she said. “We talk about, you know, fund raising and knocking on doors.”
She added that it’s great that she and Acosta are going through this transition from deputy treasurers, an appointed position, to trying to become the treasurers-elect because they can support each other. Acosta agreed.
“Sometimes being an elected official or running for office can be a lonely walk,” Acosta said. “No one else really knows – I mean, you can have people help you, support you, but when you’ve got someone you’ve known since you were a child going through the same exact thing, that’s nice. It’s comforting.”