Karen Keys-Gamarra is the mother of three FCPS graduates, a twice-elected At-Large member of the Fairfax County School Board, a former Planning Commissioner, an attorney who practices family law and focuses on representing children, and a child advocate who has had extensive involvement in our community.
The daughter of a retired military veteran and social worker, Keys-Gamarra grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from Tulane University and Washington University School of Law.
She has practiced law in multiple states, such as bankruptcy, employment discrimination, labor law, and criminal and family law. She began her law career in private practice and gravitated toward nonprofit organizations that focused on employment and labor law. Her experience includes service at Eastern Missouri Legal Aid, EEOC (St. Louis), and Teamsters for a Democratic Union. She has also served on non-profit boards to reduce domestic violence against women and children and was a former CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate) who advocates for the well-being of court-involved children. Keys-Gamarra is a graduate of EMERGE Virginia and is a member of the George Mason University Carter School of Political Leadership Advisory Council.
After her three sons were born, Keys-Gamarra was a full-time parent and volunteer. When she returned to practicing law, she became a Guardian Ad Litem representing children’s best interests in cases of abuse, neglect, detention, adoption, and other areas of family law. She understands that family is important to the child’s well-being and that education is often the key to providing a bridge to success for that child.
Karen’s family, including her husband Antoine and three sons, have lived in the same house for over 21 years. Karen’s parents joined them in 2012, creating a three-generation household. She served as a caregiver for both her mother and father. Karen understands the wonderful benefits and sometimes overwhelming challenges of the sandwich generation. Karen and Antoine’s sons have all attended or graduated from college. Their oldest son is gainfully employed, and their middle son is a 2019 U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate. Their youngest son recently graduated from the College of William & Mary and works in Northern Virginia.
“I have the privilege of living in a welcoming family that taught me to enjoy and respect diverse cultures. I am an African American raised by a social worker and a military veteran. My family specializes in hospitality and boasts a few chefs. My husband is of Bolivian and French descent. His father immigrated to the U.S. four times before he joined the military and later became an inventor and scientist who obtained several patents.
After my parents began to age, we became a multi-generational household, and I became a caregiver. This was an opportunity for my children to learn more about the cycle of life and they received a few history lessons. My children have enjoyed the rich backgrounds of their family members. Given the representation of cultures from South America, Africa, parts of Europe, and the United States, we always share flavor-filled, well-seasoned food and good company.”