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Gardner Re-Elected Mayor, 2 Dissent on F.C. Council

Lippman Gets Vice-Mayor Job, Also in 5-2 Vote

There were smiles all the way around among the over 60 in attendance during a City Hall reception and during formal swearing in ceremonies, but they quickly dissipated when the newly-configured Falls Church City Council cast its first vote Tuesday, and dissent arose in the re-election of Mayor Robin Gardner and election of Vice Mayor Hal Lippman.

Newcomers Nader Baroukh and Lawrence Webb were joined by Incumbent Mayor Gardner, all winners in May’s municipal election in Falls Church, to pledge their oath to office, led by City Clerk Kathleen Buschow at the outset of Tuesday’s specially-convened Council meeting, launching for all new four-year terms.

Once seated among their four existing Council colleagues, they undertook their first order of business at the brief meeting, the election of a new mayor and vice mayor.

Gardner’s name was placed in nomination by Webb, and seconded by Lippman. There were no other nominations. When Clerk Buschow proceeded with the roll call vote on the nomination of Gardner, and being that Baroukh was seated at the end of the dais closest to her, his name was called first.

“Present,” Baroukh said. Buschow thought he’d misunderstood and clarified that he was being asked to vote for Gardner as mayor. “Present,” he said again. As it became clear he intended to withhold his vote, the festive mood in the full house noticeably shifted to a more somber one.

Thus, Baroukh struck the first blow as a brand new member of the Council, who ran as an independent opposed to the Gardner-led previous Council’s unanimous decision to approve a $317 million City Center project.

He was joined in withholding his support for Gardner by veteran Council member David Snyder. The two did the same in the vote for Hal Lippman as vice mayor. Neither voted “no,” only “present.”

Therefore, both votes were five in favor, zero against, and two abstentions.

In remarks following the votes, Baroukh explained his two abstentions, saying, he had “serious reservations about supporting” Gardner and Lippman. As one who was elected as an independent, he said, “based on a clear need for a fresh perspective on the Council…I cannot now give them my full vote of confidence.”

Snyder followed with remarks about his abstentions, saying, “While I have no personal objections, whatsoever,” to Gardner and Lippman, “I don’t support some policies and procedures” of the previous Council, and “I strongly disagree.”

Still, Gardner was not directly challenged in her re-election to become only the second mayor to serve more than a single term in Falls Church in 20 years. She had also been the highest single vote-getter in the May election.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” she said Tuesday. Hailing her backing by the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), she said, “The CBC represents the best in this community” and “have also been the best of friends.” She said she will stress the dual challenges of transparency and inclusion in the Council’s deliberations, “and hope that we will work with each other for the greatest good.”
Lippman said in his first years on the City Council, “I did my homework, came prepared and willing to listen.” He praised the achievements of the previous Council, that included Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry and David Chavern. “We did a very good job. Many of the 7-0 votes were misleading, because they came only after very vehement discussions,” he said. “I am confident we will develop the same kind of chemistry on this new Council.”

Webb thanked his supporters for “intrusting me” with the responsibility of serving on the Council, including the CBC, his running mates Gardner and Hockenberry, his mother, sister, aunt and nephew, who came to town to attend the swearing in, his partner Clifton Taylor, and his mentor from his early teen years, former Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, who drove up from Roanoke to attend the event.

Also present in the audience to show support for Webb was a contingent from the Washington, D.C-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, led by Shawn Werner, which helped Webb become Virginia’s first openly gay African-American elected official in the May election.

In fact, the wide diversity represented on the new Council was not lost on Lippman in comments after the meeting. He noted that the new Council is now composed of three Jewish members (Lippman, Baroukh and Dan Maller), one African-American (Webb) and one Chinese-American (Dan Sze). There is also one woman (Gardner), one openly-gay member (Webb) and at least one Republican (Snyder).

Baroukh thanked his campaign treasurer and friend Bernadette Fanchuberta, without whose support, he said, his election could not have happened. He said he’d work for “a comprehensive development strategy” for the City, to encourage development “in proportion and harmony” with the City to “ensure our independence as a city” and that “class sizes remain small and our schools have the funds they need.”

Snyder said he wants to see the formation of “a blue ribbon committee on the City’s fiscal future,” which has him worried, he said.

Gardner was first elected to the Council in 2000 and first elected mayor in 2006. She is a strategic account manager at GTSI, with a focus on civilian agencies. She and her husband Mike have twin elementary school-age children.

Baroukh is a senior attorney with management responsibilities at the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for handling immigration and national security issues.

Webb is an assistant dean of admissions at the University of Mary Washington and works for the James Farmer Scholars Program. He was appointed by Former Governor Mark Warner to the Virginia Department of Correctional Education Board.

Lippman is an independent consultant evaluating U.S. government international development assistance programs. He and his wife, Sue, have three children and have lived in Falls Church for more than 25 years.