Vienna Council candidates aim to add voices to local scene

Andrea Dahl, Ed Somers and Chris Wright are among candidates vying for three Vienna Town Council seats in 2020.

Running with four other candidates for Vienna Town Council this year, Andrea Dahl, Ed Somers and Chris Wright are hawking their visions for making the town better.

Dahl, a former corporate worker and now full-time mother, said she would bring to the Council 20 years’ work experience, copious community volunteering and plenty of drive, determination and passion.

“I’m running for Town Council because I believe I can make a positive difference,” she said. “I’m very good at finding out who the experts are in the different areas.”

Somers, who chairs the town’s Transportation Safety Commission, said his long career advocating for local governments large and small makes him especially qualified.

“I bring to the table a lifetime of experience and an incredible network that I can call on, some absolutely amazing current and former elected and professional staff at the local level,” he said. “I think that really does make me somewhat unique, because I’ve been exposed to these incredible people who’ve dealt with many of the same issues that Vienna as it is changing is going through now.”

Wright, who works in data analytics, hopes some old Maple Avenue office buildings will receive facelifts and that ugly overhead power lines can be placed underground. He also is concerned about the temporarily suspended Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning ordinance, which some residents say allows overly large redevelopments.

“I’m not fully confident that we have a full understanding of impacts of large projects,” he said.

Wright, Somers and Dahl are running in the May 5 election along with Charles Anderson, Roy Baldwin, Ray Brill Jr. and David Patariu, all of whom the Sun Gazette has profiled.

Dahl, a 22-year Vienna resident, grew up in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland. She holds an bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Maryland-College Park and a master’s in business administration from American University.

Dahl spent much of her career working for Mobil, leaving shortly after the company’s 1999 merger with Exxon. After spending a year and a half traveling, she worked for Winchester-based Trex for five years before being laid off in 2008 when the recession struck. She was pregnant with her first child then and ever since has been a full-time mother.

Dahl has participated in the parent-teacher associations at Wolftrap and Vienna elementary schools, and helped initiate a popular Veterans Day program at Wolftrap Elementary. She also has been active with the Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, and served on the board of Epiphany Methodist Church.

Dahl favors considering the broader impacts of development decisions, such as those affecting traffic, schools, businesses and overall quality of life in the town.

“I recognize that growth is inevitable, but I think that we can do a better job of planning growth and we can be smarter about it.”

Preserving trees, green space and wildlife habitats also should be town priorities, as well as acquiring land for parks and ball fields, Dahl said.

Dahl, Wright, Patariu and mayoral candidate Pasha Majdi are running on a “resident-focused” platform that seeks common-sense growth, protection of residential neighborhoods and reduction of cut-through traffic, Dahl said.

Wright is critical of the Council’s current direction, saying too many members have adversarial positions.

“Over the last five years, socializing with friends, many I’ve talked to had a desire to get some fresh perspectives on the Town Council,” Wright said.

Born and raised in Lynchburg. Wright graduated from high school in 1994 and earned a marketing degree at James Madison University.

While working for MicroStrategy in Tysons, Wright switched from technology work to sales He later joined the analytics company Datastrong, where he still works.

Wright has lived in Vienna since 2004 because of its small-town feel, and coaches several youth sports teams.

Wright hopes to ramp up efforts to better inform town residents about issues and initiatives, and use technology such as phone notifications to tell them about public hearings, leaf-collection schedules and other town happenings.

Delighted by late Council member Maud Robinson’s $7 million bequest to the town for building sidewalks within five years, Wright said he hoped the town could act promptly before that time window expired.

“Sidewalks are not a new phenomenon,” he said. “It shouldn’t be such a complicated issue to tackle.”

Somers, a Vienna resident for more than a decade, grew up in a small-business environment in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He studied politics and government at American University, then continued his studies in London.

Somers began his career as a lobbyist for the Texas Municipal League, served for five years as an assistant representative in Washington, D.C., for the city of Los Angeles and for the last 25 years has worked for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for which he now is chief of staff.

“I’ve spent my entire career on all the innovations and great things that happen at the local level,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed by [Vienna’s] government, the town’s staff and the volunteers who show up for all the meetings and give up their time. I thought this would be a good way for me to give back to my community a little bit.”

Somers is especially keen on pedestrian and bicyclist safety and sidewalks. He was delighted when the town installed brick sidewalks along Maple Avenue and put in a mini-roundabout at Park and Locust streets, S.E.

Somers said he is well-versed in elected officials’ roles and how they need to prod and encourage governmental staffers to get the best out of them. The key is to foster an environment where staff can offer creative ideas.

Regarding redevelopment of the Maple Avenue corridor, Somers said he would like to see the town develop a coherent vision with community buy-in. He favors mixed-use developments that have the appropriate scale and setbacks for the community’s size. He also would like to see young people be able to live in apartments and condominiums in the town.

“I believe that towns move in one of two directions. They either progress or regress,” he said. “I’ve never really seen many towns that stay static. I want to be a part of the progression of Vienna – making sure that it’s a proper progression, that it fits the culture, nature and size of the town.”

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