Webb’s Swing Vote May Earn Him Vice Mayor Slot
With swing-vote Falls Church Councilman Lawrence Webb announcing Tuesday that he’d “definitely made up his mind” who he will support when the seven members on the newly-sworn in F.C. City Council decide who will be their next mayor, local insiders are convinced that Nader Baroukh, beginning his third year on the Council, will be elected mayor.
They also hold that Webb, also only two years on the Council to date, will be elected vice-mayor. Although neither Webb nor Baroukh would say so publicly, it appears that Webb’s high-profile desire to become vice mayor, which he revealed two weeks ago, will have a lot to do with his support for Baroukh tonight.
Baroukh (and Webb) are expected to enjoy the support of two newly-elected Council members, Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry. Three of the four who will form the core of a pro-Baroukh majority ran as independents in 2008 and this May, the only exception being Webb, who ran in 2008 with the backing of the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), the City’s venerable and preeminent candidate vetting organization.
By siding with Baroukh, Webb will be turning away from his former CBC collaborators, who want Ron Peppe, who will switch from being chairman of the Falls Church School Board to be sworn in on the F.C. City Council tonight. Peppe was the top vote-getter in this May’s election, and brings a wealth of experience as a consensus-building board chair, both in Falls Church and his previous home of Frederick, Maryland.
CBC-backed Mayor Robin Gardner, expected to relinquish her gavel tonight after four years, withdrew herself from consideration for another term, and has thrown her support to Peppe. The Councilman with the longest tenure of experience, David Snyder, has not yet let his intentions be known on the vote tonight.
Snyder, who has served on the Council since 1994 and was mayor from 1998-2000, and Gardner, who has been on the Council since 2000, bring a combined 26 years of leadership experience to the Council meeting tonight, but are expected to be passed over for mayor and vice mayor in favor of two Councilman with a total of four years of experience.
Tonight, a pre-meeting reception to welcome the three new Council members will be begin at 7 p.m. in the Council chambers at City Hall, prior to the convening of the meeting at 8 p.m. Both are open to the public, and the meeting will be televised live on Falls Church Cable TV (Cox Channel 12, Verizon Channel 35 and RCN Channel 2). The swearing in and election of the mayor and vice mayor will be the only items on the agenda for the meeting, but a lot of speech making can be expected.
For the first time, the new Council, the new mayor and vice mayor will be commissioned for less than two-year terms, given that the switch to move Falls Church municipal elections from May to November, as voted by the Council last January, means that the next Council election will be 17 months away, in November 2011.
(The U.S. Department of Justice gave its stamp of approval to the switch of the election date this week. Proponents of the switch identified a long-standing pattern of higher voter turnouts in November elections, compared to May elections, as the reason. On the other hand, Baroukh was among the strong opponents to that switch, even charging that moving the date was “un-American.”)
Baroukh told the News-Press in a brief phone interview Tuesday night that he is “definitely interested” in being considered for mayor tonight, while Webb, also Tuesday, told the News-Press he “plans to keep my name in for vice mayor,” and had “definitely made a decision on his choice for mayor,” though he would not tip is hand about who he will be backing.
Asked about who he would support for vice mayor, Baroukh said, “Tune in to find that out” at tonight’s meeting.
Meanwhile, three members of the Falls Church City Council whose terms end as of July 1 were widely praised and honored both during a special reception prior to Monday’s Council meeting and during the meeting, as well. Vice Mayor Hal Lippman and Council members Dan Maller and Dan Sze will finish out their stints on the Council when three new members are sworn in tonight.
The praise heaped upon the three for their tireless commitment to their work, their dedication and their shared passion for serving the best interests of the City. Maller was singled out for the contribution his legal acumen brought to the Council, as well as an ability to “think outside the box.” Sze was hailed for his effectiveness promotion of environmental awareness, as well as his “words of wisdom,” and ability to “cut to the chase” on complicated issues. Lippman was praised for his tireless efforts on the Council while courageously serving his country on numerous civilian missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to receiving these plaudits from their colleagues on the Council, they were all also praised and thanked by former mayor Dan Gardner, speaking on behalf of his wife, Deborah Gardner, the president of the CBC that had nominated them all, former Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry, F.C. Chamber of Commerce executive director Sally Cole and local businessman Paul Quinn. Hockenberry hailed them for “caring for all our citizens” and “making the city a better place.”
Lippman also presented a plaque and words of appreciation to Mayor Robin Gardner, who will remain on the Council but will likely not be re-elected to a third term as mayor tonight. He singled her out for her skill in growing the reputation of the Falls Church Council as a “can do, get things done group.”
Sze said he was “humbled by the outpouring of appreciation,” Maller spoke to the Council’s “unity of purpose” and said “it was an incredible privilege to serve.” and Lippman thanked his colleagues as “seven individuals united in the best interests of the city.”