Mayor Gardner to Run Again, Promises Free Citywide WiFi

While promising the City of Falls Church will provide free wireless Internet access over all its 2.2 square miles by the end of this year, Mayor Robin Gardner announced her plans on New Year’s Day to seek re-election in May.

Gardner made the pledge in an interview with the News-Press at her home Tuesday afternoon. Her announcement was accompanied by a letter that is published elsewhere in this edition of the News-Press.

Gardner told supporters last fall that she would not make her decision until after the holidays. “I wanted to make sure that people weren’t in the mood for something different,” she said. Family issues, including her and husband Mike’s raising of young twins, were not much of a concern, she said, because “My family has benefited from my involvement.”

In the meantime, Gardner has been buoyed by progress amongst her Council colleagues in moving the City Center development process forward, with evidence that the votes needed to approve it this month may well be unanimous.

Her announcement means that both she and Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry will be on the ballot to fill three seats on the Council, each seeking a third four-year term. There will be no incumbent seeking the third seat, as Councilman David Chavern has stated he won’t seek a second term.

Already, two candidates have publicly announced their intentions to run for the Council. Lawrence Webb and Ed Hillegass sent letters to that effect to the News-Press, which published them in the fall. A third citizen, Eric Parks, sent a letter to Council members last week about his plans to “run for mayor” (although the position of mayor, as such, is not on the general election ballot, that post being determined by a vote of the Council).

Gardner said she let her intentions to run be known first to Vice Mayor Hockenberry, City Manager Wyatt Shields and Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester. She also told State Del. Jim Scott in the context of a meeting to discuss the City’s wishes for action in the state legislature as it convenes this week.

Next month, the City’s venerable civic elections organization, the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), will hold a convention when all candidates or potential candidates can seek support from its attendees, and thereby a CBC “nomination.”

For the first time since its contentious decision to do so, the Falls Church City Democratic Committee also has the option of endorsing candidates in the election.

All candidates must file individually with the City’s Registrar of Voters Office with the required number of petition signatures 60 days before the general election, which would be early March.

Four members of the seven-member City Council will not be facing the need for re-election this year, having been elected in May 2006.

“My whole being is in service,” Mayor Gardner told the News-Press Tuesday. I’ve been involved ever since moving to Falls Church in 1996 and first got elected to the Council in 2000. She began serving as mayor in 2006.

“My desire to serve has not ended yet,” she added. “I am honest, and it’s been very clear during my tenure how I feel on issues. But I am also genuinely willing to listen to others. I have brought transparency to City Hall and the Council, and am proud of our relationships with the School Board, City boards, commissions and civic groups. There is room for everybody in the process.”

With her “day job” in the information technology industry, she’s had a keen interest in making all of Falls Church’s 2.2 square miles wireless accessible as a service to its citizens, and as an incentive for recruitment of new business.

“There are so many people in Falls Church who work from their homes that offering this service will be very valuable,” she said, and pledged that she’ll make good on that promise by the end of 2008.

Hearing this news for the first time yesterday during a visit to the News-Press office, City Manager Shields’ eyes got big and he commented, “She’s always had a special interest in that.”