Local Commentary

Editorial: The Qualifications for Mayor of F.C.

As readers will see on the front page of this edition, the jockeying is already fast and furious among the seven who will constitute the Falls Church City Council as of July 1. It is all going on behind the scenes, in individual meetings and emails, with the exception of what some among them have been willing to divulge to the News-Press.

To start off, the positions of mayor and vice mayor in a City running on a City Manager form of government have very little clout. The job description involves chairing the meetings of the Council and representing the City at regional events and local celebrations. They are image jobs, mostly.

That said, for some there may be ego or ulterior ambition factors behind wanting the title of either mayor or vice mayor. Such can include cynical efforts at shopping one’s support for mayor, for example, in exchange for a quid pro quo support for vice mayor. Such efforts are self-serving and never good for the citizens.

In our view, such an approach would be especially wrong given the very trying times facing the City now and in the coming period. Leadership is not a game of “musical chairs” and jaundiced back room deals. It requires experience, proven balance and an ability to engage in creative thinking and deliberations in Council meetings with an aim at achieving real results.

It is true that a “message was delivered” by the surprising results of May’s City Council election, which has brought on board two citizens who’ve never held public office before and have had minimal involvement in local volunteer boards and commissions over the years. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the assumption that the problems that besieged the City in the past couple of years were predominantly local, and had little to do with the fact the entire nation and world were going through the greatest economic crisis in 80 years.

Still, on the new Council there will be only two members who’ve served for any more than two short years, those being current Mayor Robin Gardner and former mayor David Snyder, who’ll begin his fifth four-year term July 1.

With Gardner not seeking another term, it becomes clear to us by the same criteria we used endorsing our Council candidates in May that, especially now, experience and a track record of even-handed if generally independent, critical thinking is required. This limits the options, in our view, to Snyder and Ron Peppe who, although he’s been elected to the Council for the first time, has served seven years as the chair of similar bodies, the school boards in Frederick, Md. and Falls Church.

None of the barely-experienced other Council members can hold a candle to these kind of qualifications, and our citizens would be the worse for efforts by any among them to block the Council’s access to those leadership resources.