With Democrats taking full control of the Manassas City Council on Monday night, they also ushered in a series of firsts for the historic city’s governing body and what they’re calling its most diverse council ever.
For the first time since it was incorporated as a city in 1975, a Democrat was sworn in as mayor, with former Councilperson Michelle Davis-Younger also becoming the city’s first Black woman to serve in the position.
During her campaign, Davis-Younger spoke frequently about a changing city that has seen rapid growth in its Hispanic and Black populations over the past two decades. After being sworn in Monday night, she said the city now had elected leadership that was more representative of it. The Manassas native and human resources professional also said more than once that the city “got it right” in electing her over first-term Councilmember Theresa Coates Ellis, who will return to the council as its sole remaining Republican.
“Recent events have made us all accept change that we haven’t agreed with. … We all bring different strengths to the table, which I intend as mayor to help you use your strengths, talents and abilities to make Manassas a better place for all of us,” Davis-Younger said.
“We have a lot of work to do and you all will see changes, some you will agree with and some you will not, and that’s OK,” she added. “My intention will always be to guide this council on what is best for the city of Manassas.”
Two years after Democrats won a majority of council seats for the first time, Davis-Younger will also preside over an increased 5-1 partisan margin. Although many local politicians contend that partisan affiliation isn’t important to the city’s governing body, the council has previously split along party lines on important issues like property tax rates and the budget.
One of those new council members will be Democrat Tom Osina, who has promised to bring a larger voice to the heavily Hispanic Georgetown South neighborhood. Osina unseated incumbent Republican Ian Lovejoy in November, when he received the third highest number of votes in the election. (Lovejoy finished fourth in the race for three seats.)
The treasurer of the neighborhood’s homeowners association, Osina is also believed to be the first openly gay man to hold office in the city.
“This is an evening of changes and firsts,” Osina said after being sworn in Monday. “This is the most diverse council to represent Manassas thus far. I’m proud to be part of this continual evolution of a representative government that looks more like its citizens.”
On Monday, the council also formally appointed David Farajollahi, a congressional liaison for the U.S. Geological Survey, to Davis-Younger’s seat. If he wants to keep his council seat in 2022, Farajollahi will have to run in a special election later this year.
A Lorton native who moved into the city in 2019, Farajollahi is the son of two immigrants: an Iranian father and a Bolivian mother. On Monday, he shared a message for the city’s Spanish-speaking residents, some of whom have called for more translation of city meetings and communications.
“Finally, to the Hispanic people, you all have an ally up here. I extend my hand, and I’ll be here to help you in whatever matter you have in the city,” Farajollahi said in Spanish. “I invite you all to express yourselves and hear us every Monday as we conduct the city business of Manassas.”
Democratic Councilperson Pamela Sebesky, who received the most votes in November’s general election, was unanimously elected to serve as vice mayor again. Meanwhile, City Manager Pat Pate, who has served in that role since 2013 and received praise from Democrats and Republicans alike, also was reappointed to that role.