P. David Tarter has become the longest-serving mayor in the 74 year history of the City of Falls Church, being elected to a record fifth consecutive two-year term by a unanimous vote of the F.C. City Council Monday night. His fifth term election eclipses the former mark of four consecutive two-year terms held for decades by former Mayor Carol DeLong, still active in the F.C. community, from 1980 to 1988.
Tarter was first elected to the City Council in May 2012 following four years of service on the City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) and prior to that in a stint as an interim City Attorney for Falls Church. He was first elected mayor to a two-year term in January 2014, and subsequently in the January months of 2016, 2018 and 2020
He was re-elected to the Council this just past November 2020, such that his latest election as mayor this month became his fifth straight.
His initial 2014 election as mayor resulted in the unseating after two terms of Nader Baroukh, who in turn had taken over following three consecutive terms of Robin Gardner and three before that of Dan Gardner (no relation).
After the four terms of DeLong in the 1980s (1980-1988) came single two year terms from 1988 to 2000 of Betty Blystone, Brian O’Connor, Dale Dover, Jeff Tarbert, Alan Brangman and David Snyder before Dan Gardner’s first of three terms commenced.
Tarter won by a unanimous vote this Monday as the only candidate nominated by his colleagues. Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly had indicated an interest in the job after her third straight election to the Council with the most votes of any of the candidates. She received the editorial endorsement of the News-Press and a number of prominent local citizens added their “thumbs up” to that editorial when it was reprinted on Facebook last week.
However, Connelly stated at Monday’s meeting, “Just so there are no questions, I decided not to be nominated for mayor when it was clear that I did not have the votes. Dave Tarter has filled this position ably for eight years and will continue to do so.”
She also did not seek to be re-elected vice mayor for a third term. “I decided to step away from the role of vice mayor because I believe that there is value in changing positions, and no strong reason to serve many consecutive terms when there are others who will bring new skills and fresh ideas,” she stated.
However, she did acknowledge that a groundbreaking moment had been reached with the assumption of office of a majority of women on the Council for only the second time in the 74-year history of the City. Her re-election in November was achieved in conjunction with the first-time election of Caroline Lian and re-election after a year of Debbie Schantz-Hiscott. The three join Hardi to constitute the new majority, and their numbers are matched by a similar majority on the School Board with the election of Lori Silverman and Kathleen Tysse this November to join Susan Dimock and Downs.
Connelly noted her remarks Monday that, as women. “We are bringing to life the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
She noted that when first elected in 2013, she “was surprised at how hard it was to be heard, as one of two women (along with Karen Oliver–ed.) then.”
“Karen and I started to amplify the voices of women by repeating what the other said. Just a subtle shift than I’m pretty sure no one else really noticed, and suddenly women’s voices were more powerful. We persisted in joint meetings with our School Board members, and the work that required consensus and collaboration to build our new high school got done.’
She added, “I vowed to make sure that women who joined me on the Council wouldn’t have to deal with that antiquated system, and things improved. We are more powerful as a community when women and men work together and truly hear one another.”
As for Mayor Tarter, accepted his re-election by saying Monday, “I am deeply honored by your selection this evening. I appreciate the trust that you have placed in me. Falls Church is a great community that we all love.”
“We, like the rest of the world, have had a challenging past two years. But Covid has not stopped us from the work at hand, bettering our town. We have continued to make significant investments in our children, our city, and our future that will pay dividends for years to come.”
He added, “The recently completed high school will ensure that generations of students will now have not only the finest teachers and staff, but also a state of the art facility in which to learn. It will ensure that education remains the cornerstone of our community.”
He continued, “The ten acres of commercial development should break ground this spring and will help pay for the school and provide substantial tax revenue, year-in year-out, for our taxpayers. It will create a special sense of place and continue to catalyze development in the west end of the City.”
Tarter singled out the skills of his colleagues on the Council that “compliment each other, make an effective team and bring out the best for our city.”
He cited Dave Snyder for being a “seasoned leader, respected throughout the region, Phil Duncan being a “relentless advocate for smart commercial growth and champion for affordable housing,” Connolly for her “intimate knowledge of our schools” along with “deep ties to the community, local business and non-profits,” being “upbeat and optimistic.”
He hailed Debbie Hiscott for “decades of community building experience’’ and “champion for our schools.” Caroline Lian is, he said, “ready to hit the ground running” with “business experience at the highest levels.” Hardi “has been a strong advocate for progressive values like gun safety, LGBT rights and inclusivity” and “is a problem solver who gets results.”