Economic Growth is Clear Mandate of Falls Church Voters
With the two new members elected to the Falls Church City Council Tuesday being both veterans of the City’s Economic Development Authority, the resounding mandate of voters was to hold the line on taxes by encouraging aggressive new economic development and revitalization.
EDA chair David Tarter was the single highest vote-getter with 1,293 votes, coming in ahead of incumbent Mayor Nader Baroukh at 1,189 and EDA member Phil Duncan at 1,047. The 6,103 total votes cast was the result of a 26 percent turnout of registered voters.
By far the most rousing celebration Tuesday night was organized as a victory party for Duncan at the new Sfizi restaurant in the Flower Building. The large turnout eventually drew Baroukh and other sitting members of the Council, including Vice Mayor Dave Snyder and Councilmen Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry.
Failing in his bid for a second term, incumbent Councilman Lawrence Webb held forth at the Dogwood Tavern with a smaller more somber group, while Baroukh was headed back to his home for more revelry expected to include Tarter.
Duncan celebrated at his Sfizi party with his wife, Leslie, and her parents, Chet and Carol DeLong. Carol DeLong was a four-term mayor of Falls Church in the 1980s, and obviously very pleased that her son-in-law was following in her footsteps, albeit 24 years after she left the Council. “There are plenty of jokes about mothers-in-law, but none that I know about sons-in-law,” DeLong quipped to the News-Press about Duncan’s victory.
Duncan said it had become “his turn” to serve his community, although he’s been active as a volunteer for as long as he’s lived here since 1985. “I’ve been here 27 years, and others stepped up to serve when we were raising our kids, now it’s my time,” he said.
Tarter, who spent the early part of the evening at home with his wife and kids, who’d helped him with his campaign, told the News-Press by phone that he was “pleasantly surprised” to learn he was the top vote-getter.
“It’s an honor and I am most appreciative,” he said, adding, “I hope my issues were validated” by the vote, “including commercial revitalization to balance the tax base to provide the funds to keep schools and services strong.”
Baroukh showed up at Sfizi to shake hands with everyone, probably over 50 people. The Falls Church A-Listers there, in addition to those already named, included former Council members Dan Sze, Dan Maller, Hal Lippman, Steve Rogers and Lindy Hockenberry, City Treasurer Cathy Kaye and Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton, Democratic Committee chair Betty Coll and chair of the Citizens for a Better City Sally Ekfelt, as well as a number of School Board members and Planning Commissioners.
While it was not a CBC gathering, it felt like it, with a lot of veterans of that group present, and a mood of elation prevailed that was far different than two years ago, when the CBC suffered a major setback in the 2010 election and subsequently got out of the candidate endorsement business.
Baroukh told the News-Press that he was not at all confident of his re-election chances going into today, and that he wanted to thank all who voted. “I want to continue to build a brighter future for Falls Church and look forward to that effort with the newly-elected members of the Council.”
Duncan said the result shows “that voters are interested in moving forward on economic development. By supporting two newcomers who are on the EDA, they voted to strengthen the voice for economic development on the Council.”
In addition, he noted, Tarter ran “an aggressive door-to-door grass roots campaign, as I did myself.” Thus, Duncan said, “This election also had a grass roots feel for victory.”
Snyder said, “The results show that the public supports a civil and inclusive approach, representation of all key political groups and a strong focus on economic development. The new Council should be well positioned to do all these things.”
Barry said, “It is going to be an interesting new group. It will be fun and we will get the job done.” Kaylin said he was “pleased with the winners,” and that the new Council will produce “meaningful work.”
Leaving the Council when their terms expire on June 30 will be Webb and Robin Gardner, who did not seek a fourth term. Webb said tonight he intends to stay active and is thinking about applying for a spot on the EDA when his Council term expires. He also noted that the next City Council election is only a year-and-a-half away, in November 2013.
In his second unsuccessful bid for a Council seat tonight, Planning Commissioner John Lawrence came in fourth (732 votes), followed by Webb (672), William Henneberg (652) and Paul Handly (514). Handly was unable to be in Falls Church to campaign on Election Day because of an illness in his family.
The swearing in of the new Council will be on July 2, and at that time, the seven-member Council will elect a mayor and vice-mayor. Those choices may prove interesting with the new make-up on the Council.
Tuesday’s marked the final City Council election to be held in May. Starting in 2013, in keeping with the will of the people in a lopsided referendum last November, the elections will be held in November of odd years, along with other state offices.
That should ensure, among other things, that the turnout will be far higher than the 26 percent today.
Unopposed and elected to the Falls Church School Board Tuesday were incumbents Joan Wodiska and Kieran Sharpe and Justin Castillo to full four-year terms, and incumbent Charlotte Hyland to an unexpired two-year term.