Coming into the New Year, the City of Falls Church, and Northern Virginia more generally, finds itself without three outstanding public servants, all who have left their posts as of year’s end, and all of whom happened to be women.
State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Falls Church Communications Director Barbara Gordon and Falls Church Housing Corporation executive director Carol Jackson are, as of now, all off beginning to do other things.
Sen. Whipple represented Falls Church and North Arlington as its senator in Richmond from the mid-1990s to the end of 2011. Her acumen and people skills brought her to the leadership of the Senate Democratic Caucus for the last 12 years, becoming the first woman to hold such an important position of political leadership in her party in Virginia history.
Sen. Whipple skillfully marshaled her Democratic troops in Richmond, not an easy task given the unusually wide range of diverse viewpoints that are held among Democrats in Virginia – ranging from those in the more rural areas of this vast commonwealth to those from these parts – but had a remarkable track record of keeping her party’s caucus on the same page and focused on the considerable, pragmatic results it achieved during her tenure.
Barbara Gordon is a Falls Church treasure, who will be sorely missed even if her replacement at City Hall, Susan Finarelli, proves equal to the task. Gordon began her career at City Hall in Falls Church in 1981, and was never far from there over the course of 30 years. As an active part of the City’s government, on top of its vital communications functions, she had accumulated and made use of the most “institutional history” of Falls Church of anyone.
Her stint included a period as the Assistant City Manager in the mid-1990s, a tribute to her skill and level-headed approach to the challenging, often daunting, task of governing an independent jurisdiction. She also had a keen appreciation for regional issues, having served a time at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. To top it off, her sensitivity to the issues facing the business community was honed by a period of employment as the executive director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.
Carol Jackson left her post as executive director of the Falls Church Housing Corporation (FCHC) last month after more than a decade of tenacious, dedicated and tireless efforts to expand the affordable housing stock in Falls Church. Hers was truly an heroic effort against staggering resistance from many privileged City residents, even as she sought to carry out what the City had established as policy objectives. Without her, we fear it will be a long time before meaningful affordable housing objectives are met here.
Our hats are off to all three of these public servants, and the enormous talent and heart they brought to making ours a better community. It is hardly the usual perfunctory formality to say they will be missed.