The News-Press, we are certain, echoes the sentiments of many in the City of Falls Church community by expressing our sadness at the departure of two important civic leaders from the City Council this weekend. The terms of three-term Councilman and two-term mayor Robin Gardner and single-term Councilman Lawrence Webb expire. Gardner did not seek re-election last month, Webb did and lost.
We are confident that the vast majority of our readers are familiar with the unpleasant and overwhelmingly burdensome circumstances, none of which were of her own doing, that led to Ms. Gardner’s decision not to seek a fourth term last spring. She was unable to attend a reception in her and Webb’s honor last Monday, and will depart the Council having last been seen in a public capacity two months ago. However, she departs with a “parting shot” guest commentary published elsewhere in this edition of the News-Press.
We wish her the very best in her life going forward, and nothing would please us more than to have her return to public service in some capacity in Falls Church. Mayor Nader Baroukh praised her Monday night as “one of the most dedicated public servants in Falls Church.”
As for Mr. Webb, he was the subject of considerable praise by the three of his Council colleagues present at Monday’s meeting, especially for his “decent and hardworking” service, in the words of Vice Mayor David Snyder.
Webb owns a piece of not only Falls Church, but Virginia, history, as well, being the first-ever openly gay African-American elected to public office in the commonwealth. He underscored that Monday with comments thanking his partner, Clifton Taylor, for his support over his four-year term on the Council.
Mr. Webb said that he hopes to continue in public service in Falls Church, indicating he may seek appointment to the City’s Economic Development Authority and hinting that, with the next Falls Church City Council election only 16 months away, he might try for a comeback.
But Robin Gardner deserves a very special place in the civic heart of this community. She was a fiery advocate of social justice and fairness during her time on the Council, and was fearless in debating her Council colleagues in matters where there were sometimes sharp disagreements.
During her four years as mayor, amid her 12 years total on the Council, the City was in sound and steadfast hands, as the caring and attention she brought to her work could not be ignored by anyone. She was the epitome of the citizen-leader, the combined mom, professional and civic servant all in one, ready at a heartbeat to take the side of the underdog if she believed a matter of rectifying justice was at hand.
Her term of service was not perfect, as she says in her commentary, but it was flawlessly principled. No one needed ever doubt her integrity, and in government, that is a very rare find.