Two longtime City of Falls Church activists, Debbie Hiscott and Josh Shokoor, have been the only ones to announce so far they’ll be running for the now-open seat on the Falls Church City Council.
The Falls Church Council voted Monday to seek a writ from the Arlington Circuit Court for holding a special election on November 3 to fill the vacancy on the Council caused by the death of Councilman Daniel X. Sze last week.
The timetable for prospective candidates in that election is enormously compressed as F.C. City Attorney Carol McKoskrie told the Council at its work session Monday. The deadline to file with the Registrar of Voters at City Hall is 5 p.m. next Friday, Aug.14.
Already, two Falls Church residents have announced their intention to seek the seat for an unexpired term running to Dec. 31, 2021, a well-known civic engager, Debbie Hiscott, a long-time City resident currently executive director of the Falls Church Education Foundation, and Josh Shokoor, a lifelong City resident, George Mason High School Class of 2005 graduate with a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University and member of the City’s Housing Commission.
The seat will be up for election to a regular four-year term in November 2021.
It is the first time since 2000 that a seat was vacated on the Falls Church City Council requiring action to be filled. That last time was when Kathy Winckler resigned from the Council to accept an appointment from the newly-elected George W. Bush U.S. presidential transition team to a post requiring her to move to Texas. In that case, Winckler’s unexpired term was filled by a vote of the Council (it chose Marty Meserve, who went on to serve another term as vice mayor).
The timing of the vacancy this time requires a public election rather than a Council vote, being more than 90 days out from the next election.
It is unconfirmed that this is the first time a seat had to be filled due to the death of an acting Council member. (News-Press archives go back only to 1991, and those of the Mary Riley Styles Public Library are stashed away in storage while the library building is renovated and expanded.)
At Monday’s Council meeting, Mayor David Tarter called for a moment of silence in memory of Sze, who lost a battle with cancer to die at age 69 on July 27.
Tarter termed Sze “a passionate supporter of the City” during his 10 years on the Council who contributed enormously to the adoption of pro-environmental policies such as the impending “Net Zero” energy new high school and offered best wishes to his wife, Elizabeth, and his family.
Noting that flags were flown at half mast at City Hall for a full week, and also for a day in Arlington, he called Sze’s passing “a huge loss for the City.”
While news about the compressed timetable for selecting a replacement came out late last week, Hiscott was ready to announce her plans this Monday, and has already begun the process of obtaining the minimum of 125 valid signatures of registered voters in the City. Shokoor told the News-Press last night that “I have allies who want to help and we’re just getting started.”
By way of Facebook and email announcements, Hiscott asked supporters to come to her home in the Broadmont area of the City where a table has been set up by the sidewalk for petition forms to be signed, being in deference to social distancing factors.
After Shokoor completed his post graduate schooling, he had been working on affordable housing issues, and works for the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities.
Hiscott brings deep ties to the Falls Church community, especially from her work with the non-profit F.C. Education Foundation which in recent years has been host to two of the biggest fundraising events of the year, a gala banquet at the Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington in the spring and a “Fun Run” in the fall.
In a campaign announcement statement issued yesterday, Hiscott wrote about Councilman Sze, “He and I shared a long-term commitment to the City of Falls Church and I would hope to continue his legacy. My aim would be to provide consistency, to be part of the current great team and to collaborate on the work already in progress during this challenging time.”
She also received a strong statement of support from Vice Mayor Connolly, who wrote in a submission to the News-Press, “Having worked with Debbie Hiscott on many projects in her long tenure in the City, I’m excited that she is stepping up to run for City Council. She has great ideas, knows how to get things done and is a proven team player.”
Shokoor told the News-Press, “I am going to be speaking to the moment we’re in right now. I’m not looking to maintain the status quo.” As a member of the Housing Commission he was an author of the City’s current “Affordable Living” policy document.
The qualifications to get on the ballot for the special election are so relatively simple that, even with only a week or so to go before the Aug. 14 filing deadline, other citizens could throw their hats in the ring.