Less than a year after Ray Brill Jr. helped the Vienna Town Council by mediating a dispute between residents and developers over a proposed mixed-use project, he has declared his candidacy for a Council seat.
Brill – a former U.S. Air Force pilot, Methodist pastor, lawyer and congressional aide – said his business, legislative and community leadership experiences are “ideally suited to the issues facing the town of Vienna.”
Brill, who added he was action-oriented – “not a talker, but a doer” – promised if elected to hold regular neighborhood listening sessions to learn about public concerns, and would pursue practical solutions to problems facing the town.
He also vowed to preserve Vienna’s small-town charm, recreational programs and quality of life; improve Maple Avenue traffic flow; upgrade infrastructure; reduce commercial vacancies; streamline the business-application process; and advocate for shorter Town Council meetings.
Regarding the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) ordinance, Brill would seek to reduce the height and density of developments and increase green space.
“Developers want the maximum number of units to realize the maximum profit,” he said. “They need to compromise on the number of units for the long-term benefit of the Town of Vienna. Emphasis should be on quality and charm, with no shortcuts to save money. The materials used and façades built should be charming, appealing and long-lasting.”
A native of Pennsylvania Brill graduated from U.S. Air Force Academy and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from UCLA, a law degree from the University of Florida and master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary.
Brill flew the F-4 Phantom fighter plane in the military, spent some time flying a C-130 Hercules cargo plane an later became a civilian flight instructor. Serving in the military taught him discipline, leadership, teamwork and survival skills, he said.
Brill later served as counsel to a subcommittee of the U.S. House Science & Technology CommitteeBrill was a trial lawyer in Florida and served on the Planning Commission in Gainesville, Fla., a community five times larger than Vienna. He started and led two corporations – a Florida law firm and a small, high-technology company in Virginia – and chaired the boards of the Suzanna Wesley House in Washington, D.C., and a Salvation Army chapter in Gainesville.
Brill later became the longest-serving pastor in the 130-year history of Wesley United Methodist Church in Vienna. An Eagle Scout himself, he was the founding Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 345 at the church and previously was Scoutmaster for troops in Gainesville and Richmond.
He also has volunteered at the Lamb Center, Second Story and FACETS, and led outreach to Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for more than eight years.
Brill moved to just outside Vienna’s boundary in 2005 and, nine years, later moved to a house within the town.
Mediating deliberations last year over the proposed redevelopment project at 374-380 Maple Ave., W., “showed the difficulty of reaching consensus when both sides have entrenched positions,” he said. “Yet, we lowered the [debate] temperatures and actually had some reasonable discussions.”
The Council approved the proposal last June, briefly pondered rescinding the decision last July and on Jan. 27 this year OK’d alternate plans by Sunrise Development Inc. to build an assisted-living facility and some retail on the site.
The Council consists of six members and the mayor, all of whom serve two-year, at-large terms. Council members’ terms are staggered, with three seats up for grabs each year and mayoral elections held during even-numbered years.
The filing deadline for candidates is March 3. The mayoral race already is crowded, with incumbent Council members Linda Colbert, Pasha Majdi and Howard Springsteen having declared their candidacies to succeed Mayor Laurie DiRocco, who is not seeking re-election.
But only two candidates – Brill and Charles Anderson – have filed so far to run for the three Council seats. No incumbents will be running for those spots, as Colbert and Majdi are vying for mayor and Council member Douglas Noble has announced he will not seek another term.
The election is May 5.