Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpEach year, it is my honor and delight to select two Mason District residents for recognition as “Lord and Lady Fairfax” as part of the annual Celebrate Fairfax events. Each member of the Board of Supervisors similarly selects constituents, usually on the basis of volunteer work that benefits the community. For 2018, Mason District’s Lord and Lady Fairfax are Melvin Cotner and Sarah Shannon.

Mel Cotner has a quiet manner and a smile as big as his heart. At 90, his life is one of service and devotion – school, church, military, and federal service. Mel was born in the Midwest, and raised in farm country, where long hours and hard work instill a service ethic, regardless of where your career takes you. Like many federal employees, Mel’s career eventually brought him to the Washington area, where he and his late wife, Clara, settled with their family. Immersing himself in community activities, Mel helped organize the Falls Church Community Service Council in 1969, and he still serves on the board. Mel and Clara also were organizers of the Seven Corners Childrens’ Center, and he was a charter member of Fairfax County’s Human Services Council in 1988, appointed by former Mason District Supervisor Tom Davis. A long-time member of the First Christian Church of Falls Church, Mel continues to inspire service as the church explores housing options for low income seniors. For a lifetime of dedicated service to our diverse and growing community, Mel Cotner is Mason District’s Lord Fairfax for 2018.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Sarah Shannon moved to Fairfax County in 1985, and quickly assumed the role of “volunteer extraordinaire.” Sarah joined PTA, supporting her children as room mother, organizing school field trips, leading summer reading programs, activities that continued as her children attended J.E.B. Stuart High School. At the same time, Sarah became the Sleepy Hollow Citizens’ Association social chair, a volunteer position she is concluding after 19 years of planning and executing Halloween parades, Easter Egg Hunts, potluck picnics, and the popular “Taste of the Hollow” wine and cheese event. Now a full-time office manager for a small advocacy firm, Sarah continues to find new volunteer activities – as secretary for the Bailey’s Crossroads Rotary Club, secretary-treasurer of the Arlington Moose Lodge (in Mason District), and as a volunteer interpreter for Columbia Baptist Church’s healthy cooking class called “Food Matters.” Healthy eating also is the basis for Sarah’s community partnership-in-progress to create sustainable gardens that can provide fresh produce for residents. With a sense of humor and a “can do” attitude, Sarah Shannon is 2018’s Lady Fairfax for Mason District.

Congratulations to both of these fine Mason District residents, who joined other district selectees for a reception last week at the Fairfax County Government Center. Mel and Sarah also will be honored at the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 5. The Lords and Ladies formal recognition will begin at 9:30 a.m., and can be viewed live on Channel 16. You can attend Celebrate Fairfax at the Fairfax County Government Center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 8, 9 and 10. Learn more at www.celebratefairfax.com.


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov