For the first time in 14 years, two Vienna Town Council members will square off May 5 in a bid to become mayor.
Incumbents Linda Colbert and Howard Springsteen announced at the Council’s Jan. 6 meeting that they would seek to succeed Mayor Laurie DiRocco, who has decided not to seek another term.
Colbert, daughter of the late Mayor M. Jane Seeman and late Council member Rodger Seeman, joined the Council in 2014.
“Mayor DiRocco has been a great major and an inspirational leader,” Colbert said. “She has been my mentor and my friend. I appreciate everything she has done for Vienna. I care about the future of Vienna and I am going to run for mayor. I’m looking forward to meeting and talking to as many residents as possible.”
Springsteen, first elected to the Council by a two-vote margin in 2009, praised Vienna’s family friendliness and volunteer ethos.
“I place high importance on public service, especially at the local-government level, and want to support the Vienna we call home,” he said. “I have a reputation for getting things done and focussing on residents’ concerns and issues. I think the future of Vienna should be determined by taxpaying residents and not non-tax-paying outside developers.”
Both candidates are longtime town residents with a history of public service.
Springsteen is a logistics manager for the Fairfax County Department of Vehicle Services, but will retire this fall. A New Jersey native and Vienna resident since 1997, the former eight-year member of the town’s Transportation Safety Commission also belonged to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department for 26 years, serving as president, deputy chief, Emergency Medical Services captain and board member.
Springsteen holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from Farleigh Dickinson University and a master’s in public administration from New York University and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African nation of Liberia. He and his wife, Anne Driscoll, have two children.
Springsteen moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1986 after serving with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. He was only returning incumbent following last May’s election. Council member Carey Sienicki opted not to seek re-election and voters ousted incumbent Tara Bloch. Newcomers Steve Potter and Nisha Patel filled those seats in July.
Springsteen has advocated for shoring up the town’s infrastructure, especially its water-and-sewer system, and has been critical of several Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) rezoning proposals, while Colbert has supported them.
Springsteen said if elected he would work to make Council meetings “much shorter and more efficient,” update the town’s zoning code, get the new police station built, work with the Maud Robinson Trust to construct a large amount of new sidewalks, complete some property acquisitions to enhance the community and keep the tax rate stable.
Colbert, who holds a bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Virginia and a master’s in education from Virginia Tech, is a math tutor and a former James Madison High School math teacher. Colbert and her husband, Mike, have two daughters.
If elected mayor, Colbert said she would work to protect Vienna’s neighborhoods and history and to create a more vibrant and economically viable Maple Avenue.
“I want Vienna residents to be able to shop, eat and enjoy their downtown and I want them to be able to walk, ride bikes and drive safely, so I will be looking for ways to calm traffic and improve mobility in town,” she said.
The last time two Council members ran against each other for mayor was 2006, when Mayor M. Jane Seeman fought off a challenge from Council member George Lovelace.
No other candidates so far have announced bids for mayor or Council; the filing deadline is March 3 at 7 p.m. Regardless of the election’s outcome, Springsteen will remain, as his current term expires in 2021. Colbert’s term, however, expires June 30 this year.
The Town Council consists of six members and the mayor, all of whom serve two-year, at-large terms. Three Council seats are up for grabs in the annual election, which occurs on the first Tuesday in May. Mayoral elections occur on even-numbered years.
Council members receive nominal compensation for their service. The six members make $5,000 per year and the mayor, who shoulders extra duties, takes home $7,500 annually.