Around F.C., Commentary, Local Commentary

Editorial: Kudos to Harry Shovlin!

Sometimes it can take awhile for the real story to come out, especially if official sources are less than forthcoming. Such has been the case for what’s reported in this edition on the circumstances surrounding the City of Falls Church’s controversial (at the time) acquisition and disposal of the seven acres known then as the Kisling tract which became home to a northern Virginia extension of Virginia Tech (and U.Va. at the time).

It’s important that, even more than two dozen years after the fact, the real story finally gets told, and all the credit goes to Harry Shovlin, considered by many long-timers here the unofficial mayor of this burg. Harry has been in the public eye mostly for his shepherding of the City’s efforts to pay homage to its war veterans, and Harry’s unofficial “offices” are at the American Legion Hall on N. Oak Street, in the back meeting space that few but real American war heroes ever get to see despite the plethora of public events that go on there in the front meeting space.

Harry is also known for his decades of devoted teaching at the then-George Mason, now Meridian, High School, and he has friends all over this community who are his former students. He is that rare person in any community who knows, proverbially speaking, “where all the bodies are buried,” although he has nothing to offer about the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s remains.

Readers will see in this edition to the real story, for the first time, of what actually transpired in 1995, when a complicated swap took place behind closed doors to win the furiously-contested bid at the time that led to the joint decision by Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia to select the site in question over bids from every other jurisdiction in the region. Having what was called the two universities’ “Grad Center” to locate in their jurisdiction was considered by all the monumental feather in whomever’s cap that would win it, not the least of which was giant Fairfax County, just across the street from the tiny independent jurisdiction known as Falls Church. The City’s involvement lay in the fact that it owned the tract in question.

The News-Press editorialized furiously opposing the decision to have the Grad Center located there mainly because of the value of the real estate on which it was to sit (the area around that West Falls Church Metro was more than once characterized as “the most valuable real estate on the eastern seaboard” by then-City Manager David Lasso) and it was deemed inexplicable why the Falls Church City Council would agree unanimously to hand it over to the two universities for a veritable song ($1 a year for 25 years).

But after all this time, now we know how much more there was to the story that was simply never made public at the time. Thanks, Harry!