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Meet City Council’s Newest Member: Caroline Lian

Caroline Lian. (Photo: Falls Church City Government).

Falls Church’s newest City Council member, voted in last November and now engaged in her first in-person meetings at City Hall, Caroline Lian has lived in the Falls Church community since 2006, marrying into a family that has had roots here for even longer and starting her family.


Always an involved citizen, Lian decided to run for City Council in 2021 with her main focuses being public education, affordable housing, economic development, transparency and communication.


“We’ve come to really be part of the city, even more so now that we have kids,” she said about her local involvement over the years. “We love the resources, not just the schools, but the ability to walk and be part of a community that’s very close knit. I was a heavy volunteer in many circles between the PTAs and community service through church groups in the city. I also served on non-profits boards in the D.C. area for public charter schools as well as doing advocacy.”


Local elections in Falls Church brought out large crowds with almost 70 percent of registered voters in the city turning out to the polls. Lian received the fourth most votes for City Council. She replaced the one Council member who did not seek re-election, Ross Litkenhous.


“What really motivated my desire to run for office and serve in the City Council role was this notion of serving. I feel as if one of our greatest assets in this town is our people. We’re passionate about our city, we’re committed to improvement and we’re determined to see a longer term vision of this city become a reality,” said Lian.


Lian has worked in a variety of roles over the past 26 years, including investment banking and management consulting and has been working at Freddie Mac for the past six years, a job that has helped provide her with a deeper understanding of affordable housing, which became one of her main platforms when running for office.


Despite her busy schedule as a working mom, Lian decided now was the time to run for office and continue getting and staying involved with the community.


“The best time to serve is right now,” she decided. “Even though I’ve got two kids ages 13 and 11, even though I’ve got a full-time job. Why wait until I’m 60? Let’s do this now when everything is firing on all cylinders and I’m the biggest consumer of city services that I ever have been.”


Lian started in her new role as a City Council member last month with Monday evenings alternating between meetings and work sessions. She expressed how much she looks forward to Monday evenings to work with her colleagues and hear from citizens.


She said that meetings focus on the “core functions” of the city and both short and long term goals and projects. This includes looking at budgets, ordinances and regulations among other things.


“Outside of those meetings, I think one of the most important things that council members can do is be available to the constituents in the city,” said Lian, “to listen to their needs and their complaints, what’s good and where needed, explaining the current policies and programs to residents. Not everyone has the bandwidth to watch all of these Council meetings, which can sometimes last over three hours, back.”


Aside from attending Monday meetings and keeping a rapport with citizens, Council members wear many different hats, including staying involved with other boards and committees within the city and the state.


Lian serves as a liaison to the Chesapeake Water Authority, Falls Church Parks and Recreation and Aurora House as well as being a member of the Chamber of Commerce.


Given her professional background, increasing and expanding affordable housing options in the city has become one of her priorities. This includes accessory dwelling units, places to rent and homes to buy. She stated that her vision for affordable housing in the city “reflects the ability for people of varied backgrounds at different points in life to be able to live here.”


While there are options for affordable renting, options for owning are limited. Creating more opportunities for people to own properties so something Lian would like to see more of in the future and open it to more people.


This means making more opportunities for people below a certain income and opening up the options for more people of varied ages and backgrounds.


“I don’t see the fact that we’re 2.1 square miles as a constraint,” said Lian about creating more affordable housing options, “that’s just a fact and we have to get creative with how we navigate around it. It shouldn’t excuse us from thinking creatively in how we supply affordable housing stock. We need to view it as a portfolio.”


While the city may be small, Lian loves how tight knit it is and all of the opportunities there are to improve things, even if you aren’t a Council member.


“The best resource for me was reaching out and having a conversation to find out more. I really encourage anybody who wants to know where the opportunities for helping out are just to start a conversation,” said Lian. She also noted that she is more than happy to have these conversations with locals to help them find the best ways for them to get involved.


Another option for getting involved is to look into different boards and commissions within the city.


“The other option is to take a look at the City website and take a look at the boards and commissions,” said Lian. “Within those boards and commissions, you can see who the members are and you can access prior meeting archives as well as see what is on the agenda for the next meeting so you can get a sense of what is being discussed. You can take a poll from there to see what interests you most based on what is being discussed. I think it’s important that when you do serve, that you do it in a way that serves what you’re interested in. When you’re passionate about something, that’s when you’re going to be at your best.”


Those interested in finding out more about upcoming City Council meetings or boards and commissions meetings, can find them at fallschurchva.gov. Lian can be reached directly at [email protected]