2024-07-18 4:49 PM

Guest Commentary: Webb Says Goodbye to Public Service in The Little City

By Lawrence Webb

THANK YOU! It has been an honor to serve the residents of the City of Falls Church for 11 years on both the City Council and School Board.

When Clifton and I moved into Falls Church, I began to seek opportunities to become active in the community and joined the Falls Church City Democratic Committee. This group introduced me to longtime city residents — namely Edna Frady and Ed Strait who provided me with a wealth of knowledge within the inner workings of the city.

My initial involvement into city government was an appointment to the Parks and Recreations Board where the team worked to complete the parks master plan and the renovation of several parks in the city such as: Big Chimneys, West Broad, and the Creation of Howard Herman Park. The City of Falls Church has some amazing spaces that have continued to improve and I am very happy to have played a role in these quality outdoor grounds.

In 2008, I took a leap of faith and ran for the City Council, but little did I know this path would change my life and create opportunities to leave my mark on the city. During this period, I met so many really good people who helped guide and educate me on what is known as the Falls Church Way. To introduce myself to the public, I participated in candidate forums hosted by The Citizens for a Better Community (CBC) to gain their endorsement. After which I was off and running and was blessed to have been elected as the first African-American openly gay elected official in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

During those four years were some of the toughest the city faced due to the historic recession that occurred and decisions such as laying off staff members and raising taxes were made.

To say that I received a crash course in governing is an understatement. Some of the issues that stand out during my tenure were the Atlantic Realty project and the change of the election date from May to November. These events significantly impacted me especially the most important being the change of election date from spring to fall.

I brought up this topic for community conversation because we have engaged residents from all over the country and world who choose to live here and most recognize election time in November and municipal elections are important and impact the daily lives of citizens. Although controversial, I felt strongly about this change and wanted to ensure more of our citizens had an opportunity to voice their opinion at the ballot and I was willing to take this on.

To that end it was a referendum the citizens voted and our elections were moved to November. Following the referendum, participation in local elections increased and I am very proud to have taken the lead on that fight.

I want to thank so many people who during my first campaign and over the next four years became my sounding boards and mentors.

Tom Clinton, Melissa Teates & Gordon Theisz, Phil Duncan, and last but not least, the great Cathy Kaye whom I miss daily. If not for these individuals, and a few others, I would not have been able to accomplish what I was able to during those four years.

As an elected official, taking some positions has its challenges and I took my chink in the armor and lost reelection to the City Council yet that did not deter me from continuing my involvement in the place I called home. After a year hiatus, I made the choice to return to public service and ran for the school board.

My seven years on the board has truly been a great experience. We have seen tremendous progress in our schools which I feel really proud of. I was honored to have been selected twice by my colleagues to serve as school board chair during some of the most challenging times from Mount Daniel’s renovations and negotiations to the referendum to build the long overdue high school. Lastly the decision to change the school names has been the toughest and a subject I did not want to undertake yet is very meaningful personally.

As I prepare to step down, we are opening a much anticipated high school and I am so proud I was able to collaborate with members of the city council and school board to provide this much needed upgrade to the community.

Clifton and I have fond memories in Falls Church and it is bittersweet to be leaving; however, I look forward to returning and celebrating the opening of the new facility.

Lawrence Webb is a member of Falls Church’s School Board





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