Photo by Elizabeth Dranitzke

Suzanne Wells and Mike Godec

Suzanne Wells and Mike Godec got involved with community activites on Capitol Hill the usual way: by seeing a problem and working to find a solution. 

In their case, a vacant lot near their home had become a dumping ground, and they organized neighbors to clean it up and create a community garden. The success of that collaborative effort led to many others. Most importantly, Suzanne helped found the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization and its major project, the Schools Library Project. Mike started as a soccer coach for young Soccer on the Hill players and eventually became Vice President of the expanded group Sports on the Hill. Stephanie Deutsch interviewed them in February, 2011, in preparation for their receiving a 2011 Community Achievement Award.

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Interview Date
February 12, 2011
Stephanie Deutsch
Paula Causey
Elizabeth Lewis

Full Directory

Interview with Suzanne Wells and Michael Godec

Interview Date: Interviewer: Transcriber: Editor:

February 12, 2011 Stephanie Deutsch Paula Causey Elizabeth Lewis

This interview transcript is the property of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

TAPE 1/SIDE 1 [testing of microphones precedes the interview]

DEUTSCH: Great. OK. I’m with Suzanne and Mike Godec on February ...WELLS: Twelfth?

DEUTSCH: Twelfth, 2011, at their house. And, Suzanne, why don’t you start by telling me where you grew up.

WELLS: I was born in Dallas, and we lived in Texas until I was six. Then we moved to St. Louis, and we lived there for a year. My father worked for a shoe store and he was a manager and he had been transferred—[that] was the reason we moved. And then we moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, and he wasn’t transferred after that. So, I grew up in Indianapolis and went through high school there.

DEUTSCH: What did you do in high school? Were you active in activities or ... ?

WELLS: Well, in Indiana you have to play basketball, so I played basketball. [Laughs] And I was the editor of my high school yearbook. Actually, it was in high school that I really got very interested in the environment.

DEUTSCH: It’s not what everyone was talking about in 19 ... in the ...

WELLS: I graduated in 1974. There was a sign up for an environmental science program at Texas Christian University. And I applied to that and I got in the program. And then, you know, have done environmental work my entire career.

DEUTSCH: So, that was like a summer program?
WELLS: No, that’s what I got a degree in.
DEUTSCH: Oh, that’s where you went to school?
WELLS: I went to Texas Christian University.
DEUTSCH: So, it was a science degree?
WELLS: Yeah, a Bachelor of Science in environmental science.DEUTSCH: So, is that what brought you to DC?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: Eventually. Eventually. I worked for a few years after school. And then went to graduate school in St. Louis at Washington University. And that’s where Mike and I met.

We were both in a graduate program that was called Technology and Human Affairs, which is no longer called that. [Laughter] It’s now called Engineering and Policy.

DEUTSCH: Technology in Human Affairs?

WELLS and GODEC: And Human Affairs.

WELLS: It was one of the very first engineering and public policy programs that had been put together in this country. They’re pretty common now, but in the late 70s they weren’t all that common, and they didn’t know to call it “engineering and public policy” back then. It was after that that I got a job at EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. And that’s what brought us here, brought me here.

DEUTSCH: OK, we’ll get back to EPA. But, Mike, what about you?
GODEC: I was born and raised and grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, in southern Colorado. Actually, a third

generation native Coloradoan. And my ancestors moved there at the turn of the century.DEUTSCH: Is that a sort of small city?

GODEC: It’s about 100,000. It’s a kind of medium sized. It’s one of the bigger cities in Colorado. Not as big as Denver, but when I was growing up, it was the third biggest city in Colorado. So, then, 100,000 people. Went to high school there. A high school called Pueblo Central High School, an old school that had been around since literally the late 1800s. And graduated from there.

In high school, I was a competitive swimmer actually, and so I did a lot of work. I did a lot of both in the summer—in a club, as well as high school swimming. I did a lot of intramural kinds of sports as a kid, as well, growing up.

DEUTSCH: When I think of Colorado, I think of hiking. Were you an outdoors ... ?

GODEC: Kind of. I mean, our family had some cabins in the mountains—actually they still have [them]—and so we’d spend a lot of time up there in the summer. We didn’t do a lot of long hikes. We did a lot of day hikes from the cabin kind of thing. And fished and, you know, traipsed around the mountains and rode motorbikes and all kinds of things like that as a kid as well. Didn’t really start skiing until I was actually in high school. It wasn’t something that my family did.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

Was also kind of involved in a variety of service clubs, Key Club, and a variety of clubs like that while in school. Graduated from high school and went to the University of Colorado. Got a degree in chemical engineering there. And then, upon graduation, decided that I really liked public policy work. And kind of the same thing, a friend in one of my classes saw something, those little sets of things on a bulletin board somewhere, and handed me one of those little tear-out things with an address and phone number, and said, “You might like this school. Look into this.” And that was the Washington University program as well.

DEUTSCH: What kind of work did your family do? What was your father?

GODEC: Well, my father over the years did a lot of different things. He ran a bar for a while when I was young. And he worked in a steel mill. And most of the time I was growing up, he worked as a mail carrier. As a postman. And he also worked in the summer at nights. He bartended at the local dog track. And he sold real estate. So, he was working all the time to basically finance his kids’ sports activities. [Laughs] That’s what he did. My mother also worked a lot of that time. There was a steel mill in my home town and there was a railroad that went to the steel mill and brought the things in, and she was a clerk keeping track of what went in and out of the railroad.

DEUTSCH: So, you got to Washington University ... in the same program.
GODEC: We were in the same program. She was a year ahead of me. And that’s when we met.DEUTSCH: So brought together by the environment. [Laughter]

GODEC: Yeah, essentially, that’s probably right. I got a job here ... she was ... I guess, she finished and was working for a town in Missouri, and I got a job here in Washington and moved out here. Then about six months later, Suzanne got her job at EPA.

DEUTSCH: And were you married at that point?
WELLS: No. [Laughter]
GODEC: We weren’t married, but we were together.DEUTSCH: So you came to DC, and did you live on the Hill?WELLS: No.

GODEC: For the first two years, we lived in Arlington. And then, after a couple of years, we decided we ...

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: Probably in an apartment?
GODEC: No, we were renting a house. A very small house. And we decided that we wanted to buy a

place. And ...

DEUTSCH: And by now, it’s what? The late 1970s?

WELLS: 1987. Well, we moved in ’83.Yeah, that’s right, in ’83.

GODEC: So in 1985, we wanted to buy. And believe it or not, the fringes of Capitol Hill at that time were one of the more affordable places.

DEUTSCH: That’s almost always what people say when I ask them why they came to the Hill. “We wanted to live in the city and we couldn’t afford Georgetown or Cleveland Park.”

WELLS: Yeah, and it’s the only place we could afford.GODEC: So, we lived out on 14th Street, 14th and E.DEUTSCH: 14th and E SE?
GODEC: Northeast.

WELLS: I had [unintelligible]. And lived there for 14 years.

DEUTSCH: And then moved here?

WELLS: Uh-huh. Five blocks.

DEUTSCH: I moved about that distance. It’s annoying that you still have to get a moving van ...

WELLS: It’s just as bad, it doesn’t matter. You have to take everything out of the house and put it in another one.

DEUTSCH: So, what were your impressions of the Hill when you moved here in? I mean, neither of you had lived in ... ?

GODEC: Well, she had lived in a ...
WELLS: I’d lived in Indianapolis. I’d always lived in big cities. I’d lived in Dallas, St. Louis and

DEUTSCH: Yeah, that’s true, so.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

GODEC: And actually, I mean, for me, moving from St. Louis to here wasn’t too big—after living several years in St. Louis, it wasn’t that big a deal. Clearly, we were, at the time, out on the fringe of Capitol Hill and there was a lot of, still, drug activity and all kinds of things going on where we first lived. It took a little getting used to. I remember literally the day we moved ... Well, actually the week after we moved into the house, a group of friends had come over. We invited a group of friends over to have dinner with us, thanking them for helping us move. As one of them was getting some lawn furniture that they had collectively bought for us as a gift ...

DEUTSCH: Oh, that was nice.

GODEC: ... as they were getting it out of the car, these five police cars come driving up all around their car and say “Get away from that car.” “We will, as soon as we get the stuff.” And they said, “No, get away now.” And in fact, they were actually doing a raid, a drug raid, on the house that they were parked in front of, which was literally right across the street from our house. All our friends from Virginia are saying “What did these guys get into?” [Laughter]

WELLS: I don’t know, the thing I remember the most about when we first started living on the Hill ... There was this vacant lot at 13th and E Street NE, and I think there had been a house on it at one time ...

GODEC: A store that had burned down in the riots.

WELLS: A store that had burned down. And they had torn it down and the lot, literally, probably had a thousand bottles and trash on it. It was just this little dumping ground. And, I think for a year—you know, we were riding our bikes to work at that time—we’d go by it every day and we just ... The summer the next year that we were there, we actually helped start a community garden there. We got in touch with Garden Resources of Washington and it was just one of these kind of neighborhood organizing things. Put flyers out in the neighborhood. “If you want to come out and help clear the lot ... ” That actually was, I think, the real first time we started getting involved ...

DEUTSCH: Is it still a community garden?
WELLS: No, there is a house on it now. They built a house.GODEC: Two families ...

WELLS: But there are some really great stories about that garden. Because, the thing that stands out for me about that garden was by the end of that first Saturday that we did that, the lot had been cleared. By the afternoon, people were actually planting in their garden plots.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

I still remember this one man who I had actually seen in the neighborhood before. He was an older man and he clearly had a drinking problem. You know, his eyes were always bloodshot. He was always a little standoffish, and I never really engaged with him. That first afternoon after that lot was cleared—I had had my phone number on a flyer—he didn’t come out and help clear the lot, but he called and said he wanted a garden plot. From that time on, he was like the guard of the garden. I mean you didn’t have to worry about a single thing being taken out of your garden because Henry was at the garden 24-7 [around the clock] practically.

GODEC: He and his friends would hang out. They’d work at the garden during the day, and they would drink there at the garden at night.

WELLS: But they were there. They took care. I mean, if your tomatoes were gone one day, they had been taken home by Henry because they were ripe and they were watching them for you. I still remember that we decided that we needed officers for the garden. I kind of de facto became the president, but I asked Henry if he would be the vice-president. And it meant so much to him to be the vice-president of the garden. He was so proud of that.

GODEC: And so we literally made friends with all the guys who hung out on the street and, you know, they looked after us. I mean whenever somebody would come up and panhandle or whatever with us, they were there and said, “Leave them alone.”

WELLS: I think because of that, I never really was nervous in the neighborhood because we knew a lot of people from being up at the garden.

GODEC: And it was a nice little environment. I mean, young white women and these old black men, and all these ... all together, working in this garden, working their plots. It really was so nice.

DEUTSCH: That’s so nice. Did the garden have a name? Did you call it something?WELLS: Did we call it the E Street ... ?
GODEC: No, we called it ... It was named after ... I can’t remember.
WELLS: Oh, the store.

GODEC: It was named after the store that had been there before.WELLS: Yeah, I can’t remember the name now.
GODEC: “Something Garden”, but I can’t remember.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: And then that first summer after that had been started, one night I was up there working. This man stopped his car and got out, and he goes, “I own a lot a couple of blocks from here. Do you think you could do this over at my lot?” [Laughter] And actually the next year we started a garden that was in an alley.

GODEC: I don’t even know if it’s still there or not.

WELLS: It is still there. I think John Janke owned it. He was a real estate agent.


WELLS: Janke, yeah. He may actually have been the one who stopped ... and it’s this alley that’s a square in the middle of an alley.

GODEC: It’s like between C and D [Streets NE].

WELLS: And 12th and 13th [Streets NE].

GODEC: It’s in the alley. It’s surrounded by alley. It’s in the alley by itself.

DEUTSCH: So you started another one.

WELLS: Yeah, and that one kept going.

GODEC: Well, because of that actually, we got kind of hooked into working for Garden Resources of Washington. And actually, Suzanne eventually became president of ...

WELLS: Nah, I don’t remember that.
GODEC: It was so far back.
GODEC: So, for about that time, on the board, for about ten years.WELLS: Ten years, maybe.

GODEC: Yeah, it was about ten years, ’84—well, about eight years probably. Until Joshua was born and became more of our focus and started going to school. Yeah, it probably was about ten years, actually. So we ended up starting probably another half a dozen gardens around the city.

DEUTSCH: Wow. See we didn’t even know that about you ... [Laughter]

WELLS: And now, I can’t take care of my own yard. I can’t have a community garden because I don’t have the time to do it.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: So you’re working at EPA. What was your job at EPA? What is your job at EPA?

WELLS: I work in the Superfund program. The program that deals with cleaning up hazardous waste sites. And you’ll probably laugh when you hear this, but for about the last 15 years, I’ve managed their community involvement program. [Laughter] We’re one of the few environmental statutes that requires community involvement in the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

DEUTSCH: Really?

WELLS: Yes, there’s statutory requirements for it, and so we have a number of programs for helping citizens get involved. We provide technical assistance and help them in establishing community advisory groups ...

DEUTSCH: But, do they actually do the cleanup? I mean, if it’s hazardous waste?WELLS: No, no. With the EPA ...
GODEC: They advise.
WELLS: EPA and, you know, contractors do the cleanup.

DEUTSCH: But, they could probably say, we want this done ...GODEC: This is how we want this done and this is what ...WELLS: Let us know what their concerns are about it.DEUTSCH: So that’s your job, is organizing the ...

WELLS: Well, no, I manage the national program. We have people out in the regional offices who do the hands-on work. But we manage, out of the headquarters office, the different technical assistance programs, and we have neutral facilitation support and all kinds of things like that.

DEUTSCH: How many hazardous waste sites are there?
WELLS: There are about 1700 Superfund sites around the country.
DEUTSCH: So that’s not something that’s, kind of, become obsolete? I mean, that’s not ...WELLS: Oh no, no. Uh-uh. No.

DEUTSCH: And they ... this isn’t really relevant, but I’m going to ask this. Does it ever finish? I mean, do you ever clean up the Superfund ...

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: You sound like you’re on my congressional inquiry committee! [Laughter] Some people would like for us to finish! We keep finding more sites and many of the sites take ...

GODEC: They do clean up sites, but then they find more.

WELLS: We have many sites that are taking many, many years to clean up. We have huge mining sites. The Hudson River is a Superfund site, a 200 mile site below the Hudson River. I mean, we have huge sites that take many years to do. And we find new sites all the time.

DEUTSCH: That weren’t known, or that were kind of covered up?
WELLS: A lot of times they can be operating facilities that owners go bankrupt. You know, it’s a whole

host of different things.
DEUTSCH: Well, it’s a huge ...
WELLS: Lot of ground water contamination problems.DEUTSCH: And how about you, Mike?

GODEC: I am, and have always been since I moved to this area, an energy and environmental consultant. Now I’m vice president of a consulting company. A small company, about 25 people. We work out of Arlington. Primarily focusing on unconventional ... I’m kind of the token policy wonk in a firm of geologists and engineers predominantly that consult on basically unconventional oil and gas development and environmental issues associated with that. Which is really what I do. And I’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s, you know ...

DEUTSCH: Well, it’s a very, a very happening thing.
GODEC: It’s a happening thing and we’ve been very good at being in the forefront of what we want to

do. The big thing is ... [Whispering and background noises]WELLS: [Whispering] I think he’s about to ... [Unintelligible]

GODEC: And now one of our main areas of specialization ... is something called carbon sequestration. [Background noises]

DEUTSCH: Carbon sequestration?
GODEC: Sequestration. Yeah. To take CO2 [carbon dioxide] that’s being generated for power plants or

other industrial facilities and geologically stick it back down into the ground. [Child’s voice in
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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

background] Take it out of the atmosphere—or what would otherwise be admitted into the atmosphere— [and] put it in the ground and permanently sequester it, either in deep, very deep, furrows or in depleted oil and gas fields. Take it out of the atmosphere hopefully, with the idea of addressing concerns about global warming. So that’s kind of where we are. So, I’ve actually been traveling around the world actually talking about it.

DEUTSCH: OK, so the garden. What came next?

GODEC: Well, you [Wells] were back then also involved in CHRP.


WELLS: Oh ...[Unintelligible] That was the Capitol Hill ...

GODEC: ... Recycling Project.

WELLS: Recycling Project.

GODEC: Back before curbside recycling.

WELLS: And there was a woman named Esther started that. She died many years ago. She lived at Ninth and North Carolina, in that corner house. She would one Saturday a week ...

GODEC: Saturday a month.
WELLS: Saturday a month. Over by Watkins [Elementary School], she got it so that a big truck came

and they would collect newspaper from people.

DEUTSCH: I kind of remember that.

WELLS: And I just started volunteering. Yeah, that’s right, I forgot about that. You know, there was just a bunch of us. I met Mary Wyman and Susan Cartright or Susan Punnett. You know, because people, we all just kind of went and helped Esther. She was an older woman. I mean, she was probably in her 70s or 80s. She was doing this Saturday newspaper thing, you know, to help with recycling.

GODEC: I can’t remember after that. Did anything follow ...WELLS: I can’t remember.
GODEC: ... what they took ... [Unintelligible]

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: Not Helen Gelband ... and she got a little bit of money for the paper so there was a little bit of money that CHRP had and I, I don’t know, I just volunteered with that. Just because there wasn’t a place to recycle then and I couldn’t bear to do that. So did that, and then Joshua came. [Telephone ring]

DEUTSCH: Joshua came. What year was he born?

GODEC: He was born in 1993. [Telephone ring] So then, that’s about when our volunteer activity ... actually, the first few years when he was younger, you know ... But then he started then getting involved in school and sports. And that kind of shifted our volunteer focus to youth and community stuff.

DEUTSCH: And was that when you moved here, when he was a baby?WELLS: He was in kindergarten when we moved here.
GODEC: We kind of grew out of that house, that little tiny house.DEUTSCH: So where did he go?

WELLS: He went to School Within School at Peabody, and then he went to Watkins, and then Stuart- Hobson. So we were Capitol Hill Cluster School parents. And I kind of felt like you had to ... I didn’t quite get it the first year, you know, that we were supposed to like help, and do things. And then Gary Carlton and Rita Carlton had the idea to start this jazz gala auction for School Within School, and I still didn’t quite get it—you know, what we were supposed to do. But I started understanding a little bit, that you really needed to be really involved and help of substantive ways.

DEUTSCH: Yeah, yeah.

WELLS: And so, by the time Joshua was over at Watkins, I had been, I think, the secretary of the PTA [Parent Teacher Association] and helped do a newsletter every day. Had met Molly Dannenmaier and helped some with ... You know, she was incredible. All the stuff she had done on the design of the garden there, and I still was sitting there. I can remember [child’s voice in background] saying, “Molly, this is going to take a huge amount of work for somebody to keep this up after you get this started.” [Laugher] Then ... Gary Carlton was the president of the PTA and I ...

DEUTSCH: This was the Watkins PTA?

WELLS: Well, the Cluster School PTA. And then, I was Gary’s vice president. I actually learned an awful lot from him. He was just very smart and he had a really, I think, good sense of the kind of real substantive role that the PTA plays—more than just raising money for the school.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: Was that something you had any experience of from your own childhood?
WELLS: No, no, my parents were never active in the school. Nobody ... I don’t think our school even

had a PTA. [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: Yeah, so you got involved in the PTA.

WELLS: Yeah. And then I was the president of the PTA the year Joshua was in fourth grade, I believe. I think that’s right. Fourth or fifth, can’t remember for sure. Might have been fifth. At that time, you know, the Capitol Hill Cluster School was pretty much full to enrollment. And a lot of the other schools on the Hill were not. They were pretty severely under-enrolled. And being the president of the Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA, I likened it to being the small business owner because they raised about 120,000 [to] 130,000 dollars a year. I just kind of felt almost an embarrassment of riches a bit, because I didn’t see the other schools doing any fundraising like that. I just didn’t feel it was healthy for our neighborhood that had one school, the Cluster School, that was filled to capacity, and we had all these other schools that were under-enrolled. Something just didn’t seem right to me about that.

So, when I was the PTA president, one of the goals I had that year was to see if there was a way to start working together with the other schools on the Hill. I think part of my thinking was helping to mentor PTAs at those other schools. What I did was contact Darlene Allen, who was the president of the DC PTA at the time. And for the schools that had PTAs, she gave me the names and addresses of the PTA representatives at each of those schools.

DEUTSCH: How many was it?
WELLS: Well, I can tell you. I have all the names for you on this sheet. And so on January 18th of 2005,

we held the first meeting of the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization.DEUTSCH: And what was it called?
WELLS: It was Capitol Hill— it’s still called this—Public School Parent Organization.GODEC: CHIPSO.

WELLS: CHIPSO is what people have nicknamed it, but I still call it the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization.

DEUTSCH: Public school organization?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: Uh huh. Darlene Allen, who was president of the DC PTA came, and Tommy Wells, who was at the time our school board member, came. And then, at that first meeting we had Don Watson, who was the president of the Brent PTA. We had Pamella Shaw, who was a teacher at Ludlow-Taylor and who was on their PTA. We had a man named George Blackmon, who was with Maury. A woman named Talita Grayton who was at Payne. And then we actually that evening had from Tyler the principal, who was Michele Pierre, and a woman named Theresa Davis. But, the DC PTA could not give me any PTA information for Eliot at the time, or Hine at the time, or Van Ness, or Eastern. She didn’t have any contacts. And at the time, I think Gibbs was open and Miner was open and I had invited people from there. They had a PTA representative, but nobody came to our meeting.

So that group of us got together that first night. The first part of the meeting was just kind of getting to know each other. But then we did what I actually really like doing—it’s brainstorming. We all just shared what we thought the different strengths were of each of our schools, trying to start out with something positive. But, then we also ...


DEUTSCH: Suzanne is talking about the first meeting of the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization in 2005.

WELLS: So at the end of that first meeting, everybody decided it was worthwhile to meet again. We decided to meet in February. And we were joined by a few more people. I think Sherry ...

DEUTSCH: Was it here, at this house?

WELLS: No, I’m glad you asked that. We were meeting at the Capitol Hill Community Foundation Office. And sitting in the background—I think they just decided to not go home early on those evenings—was Steve and Nicky Cymrot. And I know they were listening to us even though weren’t sitting in on the meeting.

DEUTSCH: Well, of course, Nicky certainly had a long background with the PTA and public schools, and she kind of moved away from that, but ... yeah, fascinating.

WELLS: So at our next meeting we were joined by Tina May, who was a Cluster parent, and Sherry Trafford. And we actually agreed on a mission statement for our group and it still stays to this day. It’s “To promote cooperation among the parent organizations of the public schools on Capitol Hill, in order to improve the education received by all children attending our schools.”

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DEUTSCH: Maybe you can send me that.

WELLS: Sure. And at our February meeting, we just continued sharing what’s best about our schools, sharing what our needs were. And then we started trying to group our ideas and come up with some short term ... We had longer-term projects. [Noises in background] I don’t recall that we really identified clearly what those short term and long-term projects are. But then we met again in March. Actually, some of our short term goals were we thought we should do more to get some publicity in our local papers about what were the good things going on in our schools. We talked about getting the principals together, because a lot of times they had not met with each other and Ms. Pierre offered to do that. We came up with a list of some common facility improvements that we needed.

And I think by that time, Todd Cymrot was starting to meet with us, and he came and talked about the Capitol Hill Community Foundation grant program. And we all became aware of that, just talked about it. In between March and April, we really narrowed down to three things that we all thought were common problems at our schools that we could work together on. And one was the libraries, because all of the libraries at all of the schools were really in decrepit spaces, horrible book collections ...

GODEC: Some were not functioning at all.

WELLS: Yeah, Josh was at Stuart-Hobson. It literally had a closed sign on it because the librarian had retired the year before and they hadn’t hired anybody. There really was no reason to go into that room, it was so awful.

GODEC: No light bulb there.

WELLS: So we decided the libraries were something to work on. [We decided] that greening projects at the school were important, because by that time Peabody and Watkins were starting to have nice gardens. It was just this idea that you only get one time to make a first impression, and when people walk by your school and it looks crappy outside, nobody really wants to get to know you very well. So, we thought greening projects were important. And then, expanding the art opportunities at schools was identified as the third area.

The history for the school libraries project is that, I think it was in April [child’s voice in background], Pamella Shaw, who had been the Ludlow-Taylor teacher who was involved, brought in this article. I know it was titled “Way beyond Fuddy Duddy.” It was an article about an effort in New York City that the Robin Hood Foundation was doing called the Library Initiative. They have a very ambitious goal of renovating every public school library in New York City, which is over 100—you know, tons of libraries. They do a lot of fundraising, and they bring together these big-name architects, and they do a few libraries

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

every year. So she brought in this article about the library initiative, and we were all like, “Wow, that’s a really good idea.” So we just kind of ended that meeting with, “Wow, that’s a really good idea.”

And then somehow a woman named Tessa Muehllehner, this fabulous woman who I credit with bringing neighborhood families to Brent, had this idea that she put a flyer in the door of every house that was in bounds for Brent, inviting people to come to a meeting up at Providence Park one Saturday morning with the principal from Brent. She had started coming to the meetings, and she happened to know about the Washington Architectural Foundation. I think she contacted me during the month and said, “Would it be alright if I submitted an application to the Washington Architectural Foundation to see if they might be able to help us with the libraries?” So, I’m like, “Sure, go ahead.” And within a week, she called back and she said, “They accepted this project and we have to pay them $400 for them to take on this project.” I’m like, “Wow, OK!” [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: You didn’t know if there really was a project yet. I mean, it was still ...

WELLS: I know. Yeah, it was still just an idea. We were still meeting every month at Riverby Books- Capitol Hill Community Foundation, and Steve and Nicky are still sitting in the back room listening to everything we’re doing—they’re not participating, they’re just listening. I think it was by now the summer ...

GODEC: [unintelligible] ... to learn about what went on at J.O. Wilson ...

WELLS: Oh, yeah, Tommy Wells had said, “You guys ought to go over to J.O. Wilson [Elementary School]” because there was a woman who lives in Northwest who’s a philanthropist, activist ... she’s kind of all bundled up in this great person, bundled up into one. And she had gotten the J.O. Wilson library renovated. And so, we did. We all went over to J.O. Wilson one Friday afternoon, I think. And we met with this woman. Her name is Carol Weaver. I think that’s her name. And she told us a whole story about how she raised money from all her wealthy friends in Northwest and she got an architect to do the design and a construction manager to come in. It’s a beautiful library over at J.O. Wilson. So we’re sitting there going, “Wow, this is really great.”

Then, Steve and Nicky, one night during the summer of 2005, asked me to come over to their house. They were very graciously just ... They weren’t trying to butt in or anything, but they wanted to know what we thought if the Capitol Hill Community Foundation [took] on this project. They weren’t committing to funding it. “What if we kind of adopted it, to help it get started?”

And, you know, I’m sitting there looking around the table at who’s involved in this. I’m like, There’s no way this group of people here is going to do a big library project. [Laughter] We need some other people

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

here to help get this going. And really, after that, it was generous people, like you and others, who ... I mean, Nicky in very short order raised enough money to renovate the first three libraries.

GODEC: We also recruited some good people ...

WELLS: There were two key people in my opinion on recruitment. Todd [Cymrot] obviously was involved at this point, and he was incredible. But the two other people were ... Steve and Nicky knew this man, Tom Regan. I don’t think they knew him well, they had just been in discussions with him about the Hill Center. Nicky organized a meeting with him just to get his thoughts on how you go about renovating eight libraries. Do you do it all at once? Do you break it up? Do you do parts of it, you know? Do you stage it? Just, how do you go about doing this? We just talked through what we were thinking about doing. And I will never forget, the meeting was over, and he just stood up from his chair, and he goes, “I will volunteer my time for this project.” So here’s this big Pennsylvania Avenue developer and he just said he ...

DEUTSCH: [Unintelligible]

WELLS: No, uh-uh, he doesn’t live on the Hill. I mean he probably donated at least 150,000 dollars worth of his time to overseeing the hiring, the general contractors and stuff over those two years. He was instrumental. And then, I had a friend, Kathy Townsend Pine, who had worked for Share our Strength for like 17 years, and she did corporate fundraising for them. And I’d see Kathy at soccer games and I’d go, “Kathy, do you know anything about grant writing and how you get money from foundations and ...?” You know, I’d ask her stuff and I’d [say],“Do you think you could help me a little bit with this, Kathy?” And then another soccer game would come and I’d be asking her stupid questions again about fundraising. This went on for about three or four months. And finally, she just, I think, shrugged her shoulders and said, “OK, I’ll be the fundraising chair.” [Laughter]

So, with Nicky and what she was doing with getting money from the Foundation, and individuals here on the Hill ... and then Kathy stepped in. And Kathy and Nicky collaborated some on going to the Philip Graham Fund and just all of this ...

DEUTSCH: How much money ultimately was raised for the school library project?

WELLS: It was a 2.4 million dollar project, and we raised 1.1 million. And DCPS [District of Columbia Public Schools] contributed 1.3 million. There had been some kind of federal grant that DC had for libraries that just happened at the same time, so they had a lot of ... They were getting some money for libraries, but they were just doing bare bones things. They might be replacing carpet, adding books to the

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

collection, maybe new shelves. But it wasn’t anything real fancy. But, they were giving like $50,000 to each library across the city for that. So we benefited from that.

What the final thing was, we’d go to meetings with City Council people and just talk with them. And we met with [DC Council Member] Kathy Patterson. She really thought we should go back to DCPS and ask for more money. At the time, Clifford Janey was the superintendent. We did get a meeting with him and explained what this whole project was about. He committed another half million from DCPS. I remember leaving that meeting, and I told Kathy, “We just finished our fund raising right there.” Because I don’t think we would have been able to raise another half a million dollars.

DEUTSCH: Was that 1.1 million from the Capitol Hill community? Or was that grants and ...

WELLS: No, that was grants and the Capitol Hill community. The Foundation, I believe, gave about $200,000. And then very generous individuals like you gave a lot of money. I don’t know the exact breakdown, but it was probably half a million from this community, and then maybe 600,000—I may be a little off on that—from foundations. But, we got most of the big foundations in this city.

What I think is the lesson in all of this for the schools—the schools on the Hill, for everybody—is foundations repeatedly told us. “We never would have funded this project if it had been one school. We funded it because it was eight schools collaborating together.” And I think that’s what this whole thing has just shown to me.

I’ll do my little 30-second political thing right here. I get very aggravated with people who talk about being for school reform and talk about competition in schools and, you know, think charter schools out there competing with public schools is reform. I think they have it totally wrong. I think collaboration is what’s important in our schools, in our public schools. I think we have limited public funds. I think we have to be very smart about how we use them. I think we want to teach our children to collaborate. I don’t want to teach my kids to be out there just competing. I want to teach them to work with their neighbors and to work with each other so we can all be lifted up—not, you know, out there trying to see who’s the best.

So to me, that’s what the School Libraries Project was about, and that’s what the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization continues to be about to this day: collaborating with each other to continue to improve our schools. And, we had a huge accomplishment this last year, too, when we worked together to do the Middle School Initiative. We did this in 2010. We worked together as parents and we worked hard. We worked late nights. We, week after week, met to come up with a collaborative proposal for what we thought would strengthen the middle schools here on the Hill. And it was amazing because when we

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

presented that proposal to [Chancellor of D.C. public schools] Michelle Rhee. She didn’t take it lock, stock, and barrel. Honestly, there were a few things that I think we didn’t want to disagree [on] too much among ourselves. And there were a couple of things in the proposal that I don’t think were the best ideas, but we did it because it was what a few schools wanted. I’m not a big fan of hers, but to her credit, she, I think, saw some weaknesses in our proposal that ... Honestly, about five months later, when DCPS came out with a Ward Six middle school proposal, it was about 90 percent of what we had presented to her.

DEUTSCH: What were the defining things that were the Ward Six middle school proposal?

WELLS: Well, we identified that we wanted to strengthen Stuart-Hobson, Eliot-Hine, and Jefferson. I’m most familiar with the piece for Eliot-Hine, but we proposed that it become a middle years International Baccalaureate program. The thinking is that we’re now attracting kids from Tyler, and Payne, and Maury, and these are schools ... .

DEUTSCH: Are they going to put an IB program in?
WELLS: They’re working on it. They’re starting on it. It takes about three to five years to be certified.DEUTSCH: But you know, they’re talking about that at Eastern [High School].

WELLS: Well, that is what our group did. We tried to educate ourselves. They talk a lot about vertical integration and learning in schools, so you have these elementary schools that have arts integration programs or world culture programs, and then you’re bringing them all ...

GODEC: Spanish immersion.

WELLS: Spanish immersion. And you’re bringing them all to a middle school. And the middle years IB program encompasses a lot of that, so you can continue that learning, and then move on to Eastern, where you’re going into an International Baccalaureate program, if you choose to. The beauty of the middle years IB program is that it is for all students. It’s not selective. Every student in the school is a part of it.

This group has continued to meet the third Tuesday of every month since January of 2005. Our members have changed, and we’re trying to mature as a group. We’re trying to get a 501(c)(3) designation [tax exemption for nonprofits]. We’ve gone on far too long without bylaws, and we’ve actually started to grapple with what those bylaws will look like. It’s hard to figure out whose members ...

DEUTSCH: [Unintelligible] Are you still meeting over at Southeast?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: No, we started meeting at each school. We don’t have a set cycle. I usually just end up asking one school the Monday before we meet, “Can we meet at your school?” So we just rotate, and I think that’s better, because ...

DEUTSCH: It’s important to ... [Unintelligible]WELLS: ... you get in the schools.
GODEC: Right.

WELLS: I think it was very appropriate to be at the Foundation first. That was neutral ground. No school was, you know, part of the show, or anything like that. But, I think now it’s appropriate to be meeting at all of the schools. So we continue working. We just finished our January meeting last month, and tried to brainstorm what our priorities are for this coming year. And we have people like Barbara Riehle. The thing about this is people like Barbara, who don’t have kids in school on Capitol Hill anymore, still stay committed and involved in this group. [Whispering in background]

I think we’re all proud of the things that we’ve worked on together and the new people coming in. People like Heather Schoell, who’s with Maury, has been a big part of our group. And Sandra Moscoso Mills, who is with the Watkins Montessori program.

DEUTSCH: There are so many young families now that I would think there’s a lot of interest.WELLS: And there’s a lot of people who like the idea of working together with the schools. So, that’s

what we’re about. [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: And that doesn’t even begin to talk about all the millions of grant applications ... for things like the knitting club. [Laughter]

WELLS: ... or the environmental club.
GODEC: Plus, she’s also active in Tyler as well now.DEUTSCH: Yeah, so Elizabeth goes to Tyler?WELLS: Uh-huh.
DEUTSCH: And what class is she in?
WELLS: She’s in kindergarten.
GODEC: In the Spanish immersion program there.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: [In Spanish to Elizabeth] Do you speak Spanish?

ELIZABETH GODEC [daughter]: Si. [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: OK, Mike, equal time?

GODEC: No, no. As I’ve told Suzanne and others, this is clearly a case of me riding on her coattails to a large extent.

DEUTSCH: Oh, I don’t think so.
GODEC: You know, obviously, I’ve been supportive and helping in all the schools stuff ...

WELLS: I can’t go to a meeting at night if he doesn’t stay at home with her, or pick her up early, or ... [Multiple voices unintelligible]

GODEC: ... as well as in volunteering in a variety of activities over time and doing things. But I gravitated more towards the sports end of things, obviously because I’m interested in it. And too because, at least with Joshua, he was a kid who really loved it. It was in some ways the same thing—that he’s four years old and we’re showing up at Providence Park to do T-ball and young soccer. You know, I kind of stood there a week or two, and I kind of thought to myself, you know, I’m going to be spending a lot of years standing on fields. I might as well figure out how I can help. So I started helping with coaching, and I started helping, you know ...

DEUTSCH: Did you play soccer as a kid?

GODEC: I had not played soccer as a child. I had played ... we’ll get to the other sports in a minute, because it’s kind of grown. At the time it was soccer and T-ball. I had played baseball and I had played basketball and done other things and was a swimmer. But, at my age back then ...

WELLS: People our age didn’t play soccer.

GODEC: Especially in the west, soccer was just not ... I mean, my only exposure to soccer at all at the time was I had one friend in middle school who had moved to Colorado from Chile and his father was actually quite a good player. And he would take us out and just kick it around with us and teach us things and stuff. But, we didn’t play games. We didn’t have teams. He eventually started an adult team that played in a Colorado league with other Hispanic adults basically at a pueblo. So, you know, I started helping and started getting a little more involved. And I’ll credit Patrick Coyne. One day he comes up to me and says, “Mike, you know, I can’t do next week, I’m going to be out of town. Would you mind

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

running the Under Six practice next week?” And I said, “Well, OK. One week, how hard can it be?” [Laughter] And, you know, I’ve been doing it ever since.

DEUTSCH: So, you coach?

GODEC: Yeah, I would, for many years. I got started and I said, “You know, I can be an assistant coach. I don’t know soccer, but I can be an assistant coach to somebody.” And I realized [that] at that age, I just have to be about six months ahead of them. The kids, I mean. And I realized also quickly that soccer was not unlike basketball—it just had a few more kids and they couldn’t use their hands. But at that age, most of the fundamentals were the same. And so, I volunteered as he [Joshua] was moving out of the U-Six [under age six group]—where Patrick Coyne kind of did it all—to the Under Eights that were playing over at Kingsman. I said, “I’ll volunteer to be an assistant coach.”

At the time, the commissioner of that program was David Abernethy. And David said, “We’ve got bigger things in line for you.” [Laughter] And so, within six months, I was the commissioner of the Under Six soccer league and started getting involved in Sports on the Hill. And as a commissioner, in theory, you’re also on the board. So I started going to board meetings and I realized that I was actually pretty good at organizing this and wasn’t bad at coaching. So I was commissioner of soccer from the time Joshua was six, playing under-eight, until basically he aged out of the Soccer on the Hill system at 13. So I was commissioner of that, and I also often coached if I couldn’t recruit enough coaches. I would take one team and coach it as well. And then, of course, that led into the baseball, and John Parker heard about me. [Laughter] And immediately sucked me in to help him.

DEUTSCH: You coached baseball?
GODEC: Coaching baseball and being commissioner of baseball for many years. Every May would meet

him over at the real estate office to organize the teams and do all the stuff, and dish out the gear and ...DEUTSCH: Are you still doing that?

GODEC: I’m still obviously on the board of Sports on the Hill and I still periodically do things. The day- to-day stuff, because of Joshua’s other soccer, tends to be a little hard for me to do.

DEUTSCH: Is he playing soccer at Gonzaga [High School]?

GODEC: He played at Gonzaga. He’s playing club soccer. That’s actually an interesting history because there was a group of boys his age that, as they got older, the rec soccer wasn’t challenging for them. And so, when he was 12, I took a group of their boys and we went over and tried out for some travel teams, higher-level teams at Stoddert. A few guys made it and the rest of them didn’t make it. So I was talking to a guy here on the Hill who had been a coach and he said, “Why don’t you just make your own team?” “OK.” So I started actually the first travel soccer team on Capitol Hill in many, many years with this group of kids. Since then, a group of people—Laurie Heim, Mike Barrette, John Schans ...

DEUTSCH: What was it called?

GODEC: It was called – just PAC [Premier Athletic Club]. In order to play travel soccer, you have to be affiliated with a club that’s a certified travel soccer club. Sports on the Hill is not a travel soccer club. And so we had to affiliate with a club out of Falls Church. Even though we practiced on the Hill, we were actually part of that club. It was called the Premier Athletic Club at the time. Since that time, a group of people have actually re-affiliated with it. A successor to that organization is actually moving to Capitol Hill, so there’s now about eight or nine travel soccer teams on Capitol Hill ...

So, anyway, I was commissioner of soccer. I was then commissioner and coached baseball from the time he was six until the time he was 12 or 13 and aged out of baseball. I also did basketball for all of those years as well, and played indoor basketball. But of course, I was a small ... there are several people that that put me to shame when it comes to volunteering for this. I mean Larry Kaufer and Greg Frane ... .and John [Parker], and Luis Granados and Patrick Coyne, who has been teaching Under Six soccer for 25 years. I joke with them because their kids have all aged out of the system long, long ago, but they’re still out there every Saturday and most days of the week working in obscurity, no recognition.

WELLS: They really deserve a Capitol Hill award ...

GODEC: They really deserve this frankly much more than I do for all the many years that they’re done this. And they don’t do it for ... In fact, we gave a little award just out of the club to Greg Frane, and he didn’t show up to the ceremony to get the award. That’s not what it’s about. [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: He’s not into that. I think we’ve tried ... he’s been ...
WELLS: He’s the one who refuses the award?
DEUTSCH: He’s been on the list.
WELLS: I was wondering if anybody ever refused the award. [Unintelligible]DEUTSCH: There’s another person who refuses. [Laughter]

GODEC: But, they’re still out there every day. In fact, I joke with them: “I can’t be like you and continue to do this after my kids are out of it.” And so I said, “We’ll have to have another kid.” [Laughter]

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DEUTSCH: Does Elizabeth show promise as an athlete?
GODEC: I don’t know. She seems to be more of a performer than ... I mean she does play. She did play

T-ball, she played a little bit of soccer, but she really likes ... [Whispering in background]DEUTSCH: Sports on the Hill?

GODEC: Sports on the Hill. When I first got involved with it, in soccer, it was Soccer on the Hill. It was really just soccer. And then John Parker had his baseball thing going on, independently, but collaboratively. We’d worked together, at least as long as I’d been involved, with John and Larry, who worked together, coordinating schedules, making sure one or the other gets the field permits that allow both to play. It’s been a wonderful relationship to the point now that Sports on the Hill has taken over the summer baseball part of John Parker’s thing. He still does the Little League stuff, but we still work with him and get the field permits and do all the stuff through Sports on the Hill. First we were doing soccer ... and then, I guess, probably when Joshua was five or six, we said, “We’ve got to do basketball.”



GODEC: And so, continuing on, we started doing basketball, and Joshua was involved in that. And I was coaching and being commissioner and making the teams and doing all the things that one needs to do to make that happen. [Telephone rings repeatedly during this statement.] And that went on and kept growing and we kept getting more people. A few years later, a guy showed up one day who was one of our soccer coaches, but who was really more of a wrestling guy—that was his main passion—and said, “What do you guys think about starting a wrestling program?” And so, we started a wrestling program, and it was about that time we said, “We’ve really got to change the name.” [Laughs] And so, we changed the name ...

DEUTSCH: What year was that approximately?

GODEC: Probably, yeah, 2003, 2004, something like that. I’m not entirely sure. And then, since then, we’ve added lacrosse. We’ve added flag football. We have paddling. We’ve added tennis. We do a couple of tennis programs now. And so today, there’s about somewhere on the order of about 1500 kids that participate in Sports on the Hill activities. And what’s interesting is about 800—800 to 900—kids play soccer in Sports on the Hill. Half of those are six years old and under. One of the things we’re struggling

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

with, and one of my main things right now, is to figure out when these kids have to start playing on bigger fields, where are they going to play? We just don’t have the field space.

So it’s exciting and it’s fun and it’s kind of an interesting story. For years and years, the Under Six program just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. But Patrick never wanted to give any of it up. He wanted to do it all. So finally, it was just getting too big for even Patrick to handle. And I said, “Patrick, we’re going to split it up. We’ll split out the Under Fives from the Under Sixes, and you’ll continue to do the Under Sixes. And we’ll get another guy ...” We got another guy, Phil Brady, to do the Under Fives.

There was about 120 kids when we split it up. Within probably four or five weeks of splitting out the Under Fives, we had so many kids showing up for the Under Fives that we had to split out Under Fives and Under Fours. Because basically what happened was once the four year olds realized that they would have to only play with five year olds, and not the six year olds, then they started showing up. And now we have people calling us, “You know my kid just turned two and a half. When can we get him started?” It’s amazing. You have to go over there sometime on a Saturday morning during soccer season when the Under Fours and Under Fives are playing over at Providence ...

DEUTSCH: Where do they play?

GODEC: At Providence Park. The field is surrounded by strollers. People walk up with their strollers, the kids hop out. They play soccer for 45 minutes. They hop back in their strollers and their parents roll them home. [Laughter]

This was Larry’s brainchild. They’d gone to a couple of national conferences on soccer. We’d always done co-ed soccer. We’d never really broken out the boys and girls. And many people in the organization, at least in the higher parts of it, felt strongly about that. And some, many, still do.

DEUTSCH: That it was important to keep it co-ed?

GODEC: To keep it co-ed. But we were looking at the numbers in our organization. About a third of the kids playing were girls. And in most other organizations, it was pretty much half and half. So Larry said, “Let’s just see what happens if we offer girls only.” And we did, and now we have 80 girls who are playing soccer in the girls-only that were not playing co-ed. Just didn’t. So it’s really brought that up.

WELLS: And what about Cathy Townsend Pine’s basketball?
GODEC: The same thing with Cathy Pine. She said, “Why don’t I take a group of the girls and play

basketball with the girls?” And she did, and that’s been now incredibly successful with the girls’

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

basketball. They play over at Palisades. And now Cathy is the girls’ coach at School Without Walls high school team. [Laughter]

DEUTSCH: That’s nice.

GODEC: On a volunteer basis. On top of all her other stuff. And so, that’s what’s happened because, you know, Joshua ... Actually when we started this travel team after about a year, Joshua was quote “discovered” by another higher caliber team and I eventually pulled him out. Kind of turned over the reins of that travel team, and he’s continued to move up into the ranks. His team is a two-time Virginia state champion and is currently ranked second in the country.

DEUTSCH: Really?
GODEC: Yeah, so ...
DEUTSCH: So this is not his school team?

GODEC: It’s a club team, his club team. He and I are going down to Florida next week, and if they win two out of three games they play down there, it’s quite likely they will get an automatic berth in the national championship series this summer.

DEUTSCH: And does he also play school soccer?

GODEC: He did play school soccer at Gonzaga as well. But, in soccer, it’s the club route really where you can get discovered and where you get ... He’s actually just last week signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at St. John’s University.

DEUTSCH: Oh, he is? Oh, my gosh.GODEC: Yeah.
DEUTSCH: Is he a senior?
GODEC: Yeah, he’s a scholarship player.DEUTSCH: At St. John’s ... ?

GODEC: University in New York, in Queens, New York.DEUTSCH: Wow.
GODEC: So. So that’s pretty exciting. I joke about it ...

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

WELLS: It’s not a full scholarship.
GODEC: It’s not a full scholarship and, you know, we’d have been better off saving all the money and

just paying for the school than what I spent on traveling soccer. But no, I wouldn’t have traded it.WELLS: Yeah, and the time with your child. I mean, it’s just, that’s ... nothing ...
GODEC: Nothing compares.
DEUTSCH: Nothing compares to that.

GODEC: But, I mean, he got his start in Soccer on the Hill. And it’s funny because it was only later on, after six years, eight years, of rec [recreational] soccer, that I took him to travel [soccer]. And I meet all these parents to this day that just say, you know, “He didn’t start playing travel soccer until he was 12 or 13?” Yeah, they look like you’re an abusive parent! “Why didn’t you give him that opportunity earlier?”

But, one, because I was a commissioner I could kind of ... At the time he was playing Under Ten and Under 12, I had older teams that often didn’t have enough players that were playing in other leagues. So I would bring Joshua up and say, “OK, come, play on this team, too.” And several of the better players of that age group. So he was sometimes playing three games on a Saturday. He wasn’t playing at the highest caliber, [but] he was playing a lot and getting better and loving the game and all of that stuff. So, it really kind of worked out.

He doesn’t really do much Sports on the Hill, although he does ref [referee] and help now to this day, as do I. I’ve stayed involved with Sports on the Hill. I joke I’ve moved into administration. Because I’m traveling around with him and taking him, you know, all over, I can’t kind of commit to the Saturdays as effectively ...

GODEC: But, I’m doing ...
DEUTSCH: You can still do the paperwork ...

GODEC: I can do the paperwork. I submit a lot of our application materials for getting coaches cleared through the national clearinghouse for clearing coaches, making sure they’re not sex offenders. And then I do a lot of the fundraising. I feel a little bad in some ways because I get out there and go to meetings and advocate for Sports on the Hill activities, so people see me a lot of times as the face of Sports on the Hill because I’m there. You know, I was there last week, ranting at Watkins. A bunch of parents want to restrict how many kids can use that field that they’re building.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: What is happening at Watkins?
GODEC: They’re putting in a brand new turf, multipurpose field there, AstroTurf field.DEUTSCH: AstroTurf?
GODEC: Yeah.
DEUTSCH: Is that good?

GODEC: That is good. It is good. Well, what happens with these fields, is that they’re used from the beginning of the day until they become dirt. They become unsafe. These AstroTurf fields are just much easier to maintain. Obviously much more expensive at the beginning, but once they’re there, you can play on them any time. You don’t have to worry about weather, you don’t have to worry about mud. You don’t have to worry about ...

DEUTSCH: Drainage.
GODEC: They have their own drainage systems within the system. But there are issues that people have.

They’ve got a couple of trees and do some things there that made the neighbors mad.

DEUTSCH: So, you’re going to go through withdrawal next year when you don’t have all these soccer games to go to?

GODEC: Yeah.
WELLS: We’re going to go to Queens.
GODEC: We’ll be going up to New York and watching him play up there.WELLS: We’ll be on the Bolt Bus ... going up, back and forth. [Laughter]DEUTSCH: You can get a season ticket on the bus.

GODEC: And also, I’ll be able to spend a little more time with Elizabeth and get her hopefully involved in it as well. So I anticipate I’ll be back being an Under Six baseball commissioner and other things here very soon. I’ve proven that I have that talent, I guess, and they’re not going to ... [Laughter] As no good deed goes unpunished, I’ll be back.

And so, I’m still vice president of Sports on the Hill, you know. I work with them and we’ve got this committee set up, still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to spend the [unintelligible] Foundation money that we got a year ago. Because it’s really hard. We really want to spend it on

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

facilities. But one of the big problems with spending it on facilities is how you maintain a legacy for the organization to continue to use those facilities. You put all the money ... and suddenly everybody else wants to come in and get it, and so how do you ... It’s not enough money to build our own, so can we use it to leverage with partnership with a school or other things? So we’re exploring a lot of options to try to get ... I’m doing a lot of talking with Peter May [regarding] how can I work with the Park Service to maybe partner on some things. And we’re talking with people on the Hill ...

DEUTSCH: To try to get a really good sports facility?

GODEC: Yeah. And we’re starting to talk to people about [taking] some of that under-used land at RFK [Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium] and put[ting] five or six soccer fields over there. It’s just a big parking lot.

WELLS: It should be a youth sports complex over at RFK.DEUTSCH: Wouldn’t that be nice.

WELLS: It actually would be, I think, really good for the city because out in Germantown, they have the SoccerPlex that draws thousands of people year round out there.

DEUTSCH: And you’ve got the subway there.
WELLS: And over by FedExField [professional football stadium, Landover, MD], there’s this wonderful

sports complex there. And we just don’t have anything like that.

GODEC: Joshua plays in many tournaments around the country and you go to these big soccer clubs and they’ll have 50 teams show up for a weekend to play soccer.

WELLS: Brings business, hotels and restaurants ...

GODEC: And these are places in the middle of rural North Carolina, nothing around them. You got to travel 45 minutes from a hotel to get there, you know. And just think—how attractive would a tournament complex be, in Washington, DC, where between games, you run down to the Air and Space Museum with the kids and do all that kind of thing? It’s just incredible what we don’t have. There’s some talk about doing a similar kind of baseball complex over by Fort Dupont [Anacostia], that ...

DEUTSCH: Because there’s land ...

GODEC: ... mayor, and of course, the new mayor ... [Joshua’s voice unintelligible] OK. He’s actually going to play basketball with Sports on the Hill.

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GODEC: Over at Gallaudet. And so, that’s why I’ve become a little more of a public face of Sports on the Hill, because I’m getting involved in advocating on this stuff. In some ways, I don’t do all the hard work of spending hours at the Department of Public Parks and Recreation getting the permits. And I’m not out there setting up the fields, and I’m not out there doing a lot of that kind of stuff (at least for Sports on the Hill. I’m actually doing it for Joshua’s team. I ref’d [refereed] one of his games today). But that’s how I’ve evolved in my involvement with Sports on the Hill. Now, we’ve kind of evolved. We do an annual volunteer recognition dinner event that we invite all the parents and coaches and everybody that’s participated.

DEUTSCH: Where do you do it?

GODEC: We do it at the American Legion Hall. Just a very-low key catered dinner, and [we] sit down and give a few speeches and recognize everybody for all that they do. It’s turned out to be very effective. The first one we did a few years ago, we had Bryan Cassidy, who was the guy who actually came up with the idea of Sports on the Hill [ed: Soccer on the Hill]. [He] came up with the idea. And he came and we talked. I actually did some research with him to really understand the history and where it really, really started. And some of the people who have gone through this organization. It’s really fun now, because a lot of our coaches and parents who are now participating were Sports on the Hill kids, Soccer on the Hill kids themselves. And so, we have, you know, Greg Frane, who shows up and looks at somebody and says ...

DEUTSCH: I remember coaching you ...

GODEC: “ ... I coached you when you were 12, didn’t I?” And they’re a coach now or a parent now. So, that’s fun and that’s exciting and it’s a legacy that I think we can be proud of. It’s a fun group of people. And one of the amazing things—I’m sure Suzanne could say the same thing about the stuff that she’s been involved in—but one of the great things about Sports on the Hill is, one, it’s a great equalizer, and two, it’s a great melting pot. Because you have all the people from all the schools, all getting together. You’re putting these kids on teams where they begin to make friends with all these other kids, so they’re no longer just associated with the kids from the school that ... The Stuart-Hobson kids are playing with the St. Peter’s kids, and they all know each other and they’re all friends and they hang out together. And it’s just a wonderful way to build relationships for them and learn about each other, and it’s a great way for the parents to get to know each other. And it’s been a great way for me, at least, to be able to network as I learn what the parents do. And “OK, so here’s what you can help me do.”

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: Oh, yeah, and you have all that time standing on the sidelines, chatting with the other parents, very valuable.

GODEC: A funny story. I remember this, and this was actually Suzanne. We were playing over at Kingsman [Elementary School, 1300 block of E Street NE] one day. Joshua was probably six at the time. [Louisiana Senator] Mary Landrieu’s kid was playing, actually on Joshua’s team. Suzanne was lobbying her because she was asking about what was going on with the Kingsman School—actually, another project that we worked on. I forgot about that one, when they closed Kingsman. I mean, they literally just shut the doors and closed the school. [Background voices]

DEUTSCH: Was it [unintelligible]?

GODEC: It was an elementary school. And it got destroyed. You know, people came in and took out all the copper and there was literally running water inside the building. It was horrendous. And they let the field just go, to grow. So one day there was a group, four or five of us, one of the guys that lived right across the alley ...

WELLS: Red Summers.
GODEC: Red Summers, and we talked to John Parker, and then this guy, what was his name ...

Hemphill.WELLS: Rod.

GODEC: Rod Hemphill, who ran a little landscaping business and lived in the alley across the street that we had somehow met. I said, “Rod, can we get your landscape crew and just cut the grass?” And so one day, we got out there—the grass was literally waist high—and with our weed whackers cut it down a little bit. He got on his riding mower, and we cut the grass, and before we were half done, a football game had already started on the field from the neighborhood kids. And quickly, we moved soccer and we moved one of the groups of baseball players over to start playing over at Kingsman. You know, just a group of us one day said, “Let’s cut this grass.”

DEUTSCH: And I think we gave a grant for that.WELLS: Yes, you might have given money to that ...

GODEC: You might have ... but anyway Suzanne was talking to Mary Landrieu, and she said, “This field, it’s really in bad shape.” “Yeah, yeah, it would be great if we could get some landscaping done here

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

and whatever ... ” And so while they’re talking, Mary’s son, Connor, scores a goal and she missed it. She didn’t see it. She was busy talking.

DEUTSCH: I’ve been guilty of that. [Laughter]
GODEC: Connor comes and says “Mom, did you see my goal?” “No.” “Mom, you promised you

wouldn’t be talking to people the whole time! That you would watch!”
DEUTSCH: I am so sympathetic to that. I’ve had that lecture from my children many times. [Laughter]

GODEC: Two years later that school got a $100,000 appropriation to renovate the field through the DC budget because she was on the DC appropriations committee at the time. So those kind of connections kind of pay off.

When I was starting this travel team, we’d been in existence about six months. I get a call, there was a message on my machine, “This is [Alaska Senator] Lisa Murkowski calling.” [laughter] She wanted her son ... She had just been appointed, her family was coming, her kids played soccer, and so her two kids ... In fact, Matt still plays on a Soccer on the Hill team.

DEUTSCH: Isn’t that nice.

GODEC: I think it’s great. He plays on a Soccer on the Hill team. It’s predominantly based out of Takoma Park now, run by a wonderful woman named Adrianne Allen who makes these teams up there. She affiliates with us because we’re an organization that she can affiliate with. She gets a group of Latino and local black, mostly Jamaican kids. And gets them to play soccer. She probably has 80 or 90 kids in her program up there. And as kids get too old to play in Sports on the Hill, they often go and play with her teams. So you have three or four Sports on the Hills kids playing with all these blacks and Latinos.


GODEC: It’s funny, about a year ago, Joshua was playing in one of his leagues, and this same group of kids that he knew were playing in the next game after him. And they started cheering for Joshua because they knew who he was. And I looked, “Who are these kids I don’t know cheering for Joshua?” But he had played indoor soccer with them at Hine.

And so, Matt still plays, and her older son played with them until he left to go to college. Like I said, you get this melting of people. So one of our biggest goals right now and one of the things we’ve been actually talking about is we need to reach out to more of the schools and the organization. And actually the new principal at J.O. Wilson has approached us just recently hoping to start a kind of afterschool

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

program for soccer with her kids, and hopefully maybe get some of our teams to go over there on weeknights to play. I think we’ve got a guy named Whitney [Minnis] who is going to go ahead and coach them, one day a week. I think we need to do this with some of the other schools because I think ... the biggest problem always is transportation ...


GODEC: ... for those kids. We had a little bit of an argument at our last board meeting because we always try to get kids here and then mix them up. But it’s kind of hard to do that. One of the problems we also had with some of the baseball leagues is that if the kids can’t get here ... They don’t have the parental support often to transport them and get them there. And so, I said, “We’re going to have to take some of the stuff to them.”

GODEC: If they really want them to play, some of them will figure out a way. But until we take it to

them, we’re just not going to get them.DEUTSCH: Not going to get that ...

GODEC: So, our next big growth option, I think, is really to begin to take what we do outside of our traditional boundaries and serve some of the communities and neighborhoods that tend to be underserved. And certainly J.O. Wilson and that neighborhood is one of them.

DEUTSCH: And, it’s funny, it’s not that far away.
DEUTSCH: It’s far enough that your kids wouldn’t walk there, but it’s not far.

GODEC: You’re not going to get a ten-year-old kid to walk down to Providence Park, to Kingsman or to Anacostia, where we have to play now. One of the other problems of not having enough field space is we spend a lot of time playing Kenilworth and Anacostia because that’s the only place that has enough space for us to play. So, in fact, some of our travel teams have to play at the [unintelligible], that’s the only ...

DEUTSCH: So, there are lots of issues.

GODEC: There are lots of issues there. On the one hand, the Marines have been very good because they now let us use their fields for all day Saturday and we’re working on getting it Sunday. And they let us use it most nights. So that’s been ...

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DEUTSCH: Down at the Barracks?

GODEC: At the Barracks. But that took two years to make happen. Of constant negotiation. They said, “Oh, 9/11 [reference to the terror attack of September 11, 2001], we don’t want ... ” It’s complicated. We, 48 hours before every day that we play or practice on that field, have to submit a list of names to the Marines. Of all the people who have “authorization” to be on the field.

DEUTSCH: So that’s every kid and every parent, do you have babysitters?

GODEC: Every babysitter, every sibling, every whatever. We used to give them a big list of just everybody who could possibly show up and then they got mad at that. “No, we want a different list for every day.” Then when you have to ...

DEUTSCH: So who does that? Does the coach have to do it? Is it the manager or ... ?
GODEC: Skip Andrews does it. I mean the coaches have to submit the names and he organizes it and he

emails it to the guy at the Marine Barracks every ... .DEUTSCH: That’s almost ...

GODEC: And it’s even more complicated than that. In theory, we’re supposed to email it to DPR [Department of Parks and Recreation] who permits the field, and then DPR is supposed to send it to the Marines. But we found out that half the time the DPR people would never send it to the Marines, and they said, “We don’t have the list.” So now we just send it, so they get the list. For our group, it’s manageable. When we play other teams from other places, then you’ve got to get their list and get them to come. So that can tend to be challenging, especially in some of the leagues we play. Two thirds of the teams are Hispanic teams. Many of the parents aren’t here legally.

DEUTSCH: And they don’t want to give their names.

GODEC: They’re not going to give their names. They’re not going to give their names. And so, either they don’t come, or they stand outside the fence. Often times there’ll be a number of teams where, at the last minute on Saturday morning, we’ve got to move the game to Anacostia because we don’t have a list. We never had a list. It’s a hassle that we’ll deal with because it’s a vast ...

DEUTSCH: So the lack of fields is one of the biggest problems.

GODEC: It’s huge, it’s the biggest issue that we have. I joke, “People, my goal as an officer of Sports on the Hill is to one day be able to come to a Sports on the Hill board meeting and spend the whole meeting talking about programs.”

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project S. Wells and M. Godec Interview, February 12, 2011

DEUTSCH: Not facilities.
GODEC: Not facilities, and not where these field guys are going to play in March. We spend three

quarters of our time every meeting on facilities. On just getting space. So ... I’m trying to think of what else.
DEUTSCH: So Mike, what’s your goal for Elizabeth in terms of sports?

GODEC: Our goal for Elizabeth is really, I think, to get her and get the schools in a position where she can go to Eliot-Hine and go to Eastern and have us feel quite comfortable that that’s the best education that she can get.

DEUTSCH: Well, if we had more parents like you guys, I think that could happen.WELLS: There are.
GODEC: There are
WELLS: You do, you have that.

GODEC: You have that and you’re going to see them. There are going to be many people following in our legacy. And I can give you names right now, numbers of people on the sports side that will be there. You’ll be doing this interview with them, ten years from now. Mike Barrette. You’re going to be interviewing Mike Barrette some day.

DEUTSCH: OK, thank you.


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