Retired City of Falls Church Sheriff S. Stephen Bittle, who at 54 years of service was the longest-serving employee in the City’s history, died Thursday, Dec. 17 at age 76. A ceremonial lowering of flags at City Hall that included participation by all members of the Sheriff’s Department and other key City officials took place this Monday beneath the flagpoles in front of City Hall.
On Aug. 15 this year, Bittle retired from his sheriff’s post to culminate his over a half century of service with the City’s police and sheriff’s departments.
A personable, familiar and ubiquitous fixture in the daily life of Falls Church, Bittle, 78, was first elected sheriff, one of three state mandated Constitutional Officer positions operative for every jurisdiction in Virginia, in 1993, rising from a role since 1966 in the F.C. police department, where he attained the rank of sergeant.
A Northern Virginia native and graduate of Wakefield High School in Arlington, he was appointed by the Arlington Circuit Court to fill the Falls Church Sheriff’s job upon the retirement of his long-time and only predecessor John H. Martin in 1992. He then won a hotly-contested three-way election in 1993.
Bittle won against the man who’d been Martin’s chief deputy and a third candidate, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police.
In six subsequent elections, he faced no competition and in 2017 the Virginia House of Delegates honored him for his 50 years of law enforcement service.
Upon his retirement on Aug. 15 of this year, Bittle appointed his chief deputy Matt Cay to succeed him.
Falls Church Mayor David Tarter said of Bittle, “His 54 years of service to the City of Falls Church is unparalleled, he is officially the longest serving City employee in our City’s history. But more importantly, he will always be remembered for his unwavering dedication to law enforcement and for making the City a special place to live and work. Our thoughts go out to his family, and to all of those in the Little City law enforcement community.”
Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields said, “Sheriff Bittle was a colleague, friend, and neighbor and he will be sorely missed. My condolences to his wife Kathleen and his family. I join with Sheriff Matt Cay and all in the big Falls Church family who worked with Steve during his career to mourn his passing.”
Sheriff Cay said of Bittle, “His dedicated law enforcement career serving the City of Falls Church community as the Sheriff and as a police officer with the City of Falls Church Police Department spanned 54 years. The outpouring of condolences for his passing which are greatly appreciated by the members of our office and his family are a testament to the many friends, colleagues and others with whom he shared his good nature and company.”
The 2017 Virginia House of Delegates Joint Resolution stated, “Under Steve Bittle’s leadership, the Falls Church Sheriff’s Office has upheld the highest levels of professionalism and promoted a safe and secure environment for all residents; and Steve Bittle implemented a community-oriented policing strategy and strives to build mutual respect between his deputies and members of the public as they work together to enhance the quality of life in Falls Church; and Steve Bittle has been a loyal and exceptional employee and public servant to the City of Falls Church throughout his career.”
Preceded in death by his son, Stephen Scott Bittle is survived by his wife of 28 years, Kathleen Bittle, daughter Susan Brassfield, step children Julianna Ramirez, Oscar Roa and Rebecca Roa, nine grandchildren and sister Kathleen Landrith.
A graveside service will be held Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 at the Oakwood Cemetery, 401 N. Roosevelt in Falls Church and condolences may be sent to the family at adventfuneral.com.