NASW, CSWE host reception for Towns

Retired congressman and Social Work Caucus founder says he will work with new caucus leader, Rep. Barbara Lee

Edolphus “Ed” Towns and Eleanor Holmes NortonEdolphus “Ed” Towns, who recently retired from the U.S. House of Representatives after 30 years, stands with Washington, D.C., Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton at his Dec. 6 retirement reception on Capitol Hill. NASW and the Council on Social Work Education hosted the event for Towns, who created the Congressional Social Work Caucus and was its first chairman. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (photo below), D-Calif., is the new chairman of the caucus.

Retired congressman and social worker Edolphus “Ed” Towns said he will continue to champion social work policy and aid U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., as she leads the next chapter of the Social Work Caucus in the 113th Congress.

NASW and the Council on Social Work Education hosted a retirement reception for Towns on Capitol Hill on Dec. 6. The New York Democrat retired at the close of the 112th Congress, marking 30 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives. Towns founded the Congressional Social Work Caucus in 2011 and served as its first chairman.

Towns told attendees at his retirement reception that Lee’s social work training and experience will enhance her role as the new leader of the caucus.

Barbara Lee“I plan to work closely with her,” Towns said. “She is so committed to making certain to get the message out to the people of the nation. And she has fantastic ideas that you will be proud of.”

At the reception, NASW President Jeane Anastas announced that the NASW Foundation selected Towns as an NASW Social Work Pioneer®.

“The Pioneer program was created to honor the top, most influential social workers across the country,” Anastas said. “This group includes historic luminaries including Jane Addams and Frances Perkins, as well as practitioners who have made significant contributions to our profession.”

Anastas said Towns’ work in Congress will serve as a model for future generations of social workers interested in the policy field, as well as those eager to serve in public office.

“As the congressman has often said, we know that Capitol Hill would benefit greatly from the efforts and expertise of professional social workers,” Anastas said.

NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark presented Towns with a 2012 NASW Legacy Award and noted that he has devoted his career to abolishing inequality and demanding social justice. She said that President Barack Obama honored Towns by saying, “Ed has fought tirelessly to improve the public health care system, strengthen consumer protections and improve the public education system.”

Towns also was the House sponsor of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act since the 110th Congress.

The legislation addresses the workforce challenges facing the social work profession, such as low salaries, high educational debt and safety concerns.

Reflecting on his career, Towns said, “I have had some good days and days I wished I could have pushed aside …”

“There is a lot more that needs to be done,” he said. “As social workers we need to work together and make our case and let people know our views and our feelings. If something is wrong, we need to say it.”

“Through my involvement I am ready to continue to the next level,” he said. “I am all fired up … I will be back.”

Also honoring Towns at the ceremony were Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, representing the District of Columbia; Darla Spence Coffey, president and CEO of CSWE; Mit Joyner, chair of the CSWE board of directors; and Jerry Hultin, president of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, which is in Towns’ district.