3 Falls Church School Board Members Won’t Seek Re-Election This November

FALLS CHURCH SCHOOL BOARD members (left to right) Michael Ankuma, John Lawrence and Margaret Ward and Falls Church City Councilmember Karen Oliver won’t seek re-election this November. (Photos: courtesy Falls Church City Public Schools, City of Falls Church)

With the deadline passing Tuesday night to file requisite papers and signatures to qualify for the November ballot, three of the four incumbents of the Falls Church School Board whose seats are up for re-election have chosen not to run for another term.

Michael Ankuma, John Lawrence and Margaret Ward will not be seeking re-election, according to the Falls Church Registrar’s office at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. deadline. The only exception is Board Chair Lawrence Webb, who will be on the ballot.

Still, in addition to Webb, there is a robust representation of five candidates for the four seats, none of whom have held elected office in Falls Church before — Gregory John Anderson, Alison Kutchma, Shawna Russell, Shannon Litton and Richard Crespin.

For the Falls Church City Council, incumbents Marybeth Connelly, David Snyder and Dan Sze have filed to seek re-election, with only Councilmember Karen Oliver not filing. New candidates who’ve qualified for the ballot are former City Council member Dan Maller, Ross Litkenhous and Spencer Parsons.

For the City’s three Constitutional offices, all the incumbents filed to run again, and as of now will do so uncontested. So Treasurer Jody Acosta, Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton and Sheriff Steve Bittle are all expected to retain their positions come November.

For Webb, this year’s election will mark his fourth time on a Falls Church City ballot. He broke into local politics with an upset election to the City Council in 2008, winning by less than three dozen votes. He lost a bid for re-election to the Council in 2012, but then ran unopposed to fill a seat on the School Board in 2013.

His tenure in public service so far is eclipsed only by Snyder, who will be seeking an unprecedented seventh term on the Council since first running in 1994.

Sze will be seeking a third term on the Council, and Connelly a second. The same goes for Maller, who served from 2006 to 2010, but has not sought a follow-up term until now.

So, in sum, there will be six candidates seeking four seats for both the City Council and the School Board.

Being the only incumbent not to seek re-election this year, Oliver said in a statement to the News-Press Wednesday, “It was a great honor and privilege to be chosen by the citizens of Falls Church to serve on the City Council. I’ve worked hard these last three and a half years to be part of the important conversations in our community, spending over 40 hours most months in meetings, as well as reading emails and letters from citizens, attending community events and chatting with folks in their homes or when dining out…or even while walking my dog.”

She added, “It was a difficult decision to step down at a time when our community is facing such critical decisions, and not one I made lightly. But it is clear that my family will need more time in the next year or two than I can give them if I try to sustain the level of commitment that I feel a city council seat needs. I am not going away — I will finish my term. And after that I plan to focus my efforts where I can leverage a more limited number of hours to improve the dialogue and the decision making of the Little City. If circumstances change, I haven’t ruled out a run in 2019.”

Of those who are running, the campaigns are guaranteed to be lively as some of the biggest issues the City has ever faced will also be before the public, especially if, as expected, the Council votes next month to place a pricey school bond referendum on the November ballot.

None of the decisions by the three School Board members not running again can be traced to the difficult coming season, however. Their current terms will carry them all through to the end of 2017, past the November election, in fact. Also, it’s been known for some time that all the three would not be running again.

In a statement to the News-Press Wednesday, John Lawrence wrote, “People who know me well have known for quite awhile that I wasn’t running. Our son will be halfway through his sophomore year when my term ends. As much as I’ve loved the School Board, I don’t want to spend his last two and a half years here going to meetings mornings, nights and weekends. I’ve been beating the bushes trying to get candidates, and I hope we have a good crop.”

Of the new City Council candidates, Litkenhous and Parsons, Litkenhous has had the highest profile so far with a well-developed website and as a participant in many City forums and Chamber of Commerce events. He and his wife have three girls in Falls Church schools, he has an MBA from American University and is a real estate consultant. His campaign calls for smart growth, strong schools and “community first.”

Parsons’ website remains under construction for now, but on a business card handout, he calls for “providing the resources our school system desperately needs, incentivizing locally-owned business growth in our city and preventing Falls Church from losing its identity and transforming into yet another D.C. suburb.”

In a related development, former Council member Ira Kaylin was honored by the City Council at the initiative of the Citizens for a Better City this Monday night. Kaylin served on the Council from 2010 until 2013 when he did not seek re-election.