All three Vienna Town Council seats up for grabs this year, plus the mayor’s job, will be occupied by different people come July 1.
Delivering the latest curve ball in what already has been a tumultuous year in town politics, Council member Douglas Noble announced Feb. 3 he would not seek a third term.
Noble, a transportation engineer and former Vienna Planning Commission member who joined the Council in 2016, said he had spent the past several months evaluating where he spends his time, his roles in life and what goals he wants to accomplish.
“After thoughtful consideration, I will be extremely challenged to prepare for every meeting in my current role of Council member, let alone spend the time in campaign season to talk to people about the real issues that are facing our town,” Noble said.
Council members usually have to do three hours’ preparation for each hour on the dais, he said. In addition to those duties – for which Council members are compensated only $5,000 per year – Noble said he has been aiding family members with various health issues and wants to help publish a book of his father’s photography.
Noble’s decision opens up yet another seat on the Council, which last year saw one incumbent not seek re-election, another defeated at the polls and two new members take their posts last summer.
Mayor Laurie DiRocco announced in December last year that she would be stepping down after three two-year terms. In January, incumbent Council members Linda Colbert, Pasha Majdi and Howard Springsteen filed to run for mayor.
Springsteen’s term ends on June 30, 2021, so he’s guaranteed to return to the Council, whether in his current position or as mayor, when the new Council convenes in July. But the terms of Colbert and Majdi expire at the end of this June, so at least one of them will not be returning.
So far, only Vienna resident Charles Anderson has filed to run for a Council seat. The filing deadline is March 3.
Noble in his three-page valediction credited late Mayor M. Jane Seeman for encouraging him to serve the town, Mayor DiRocco for coaching him on how to serve in an elected position and Council member Steve Potter for his exemplary thoughtfulness and preparation for Council meetings, “even though we may come to different conclusions.”
Noble also thanked Town Manager Mercury Payton for his staffing decisions in recent years, saying the “improvement in knowledge and professionalism across all levels and all departments is noticeable.”
The Council’s priorities for the coming years should include updating the town’s code and comprehensive plan, Noble said, adding he already has forwarded to Payton a motion for a contract award in April that will suggest rescinding all code provisions of the town’s controversial Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning ordinance.
“What comes out of the zoning-code-update process must govern commercial-property development in the future, not [provide] ‘fixes’ to a MAC code that has flaws,” he said.
Noble urged Vienna voters to become informed on issues facing the town and learn more about the positions, work habits and ethics of those running for Town Council.
“I welcome anyone who is willing to try on this chair to come forward and explain how they plan to bring people together rather than separate [them], to do the hard work that is necessary,” he said.
Vienna residents and government officials also need to have a “really frank” conversation about Vienna’s vaunted small-town character, he said.
“We need to figure who we really are,” he said. “We haven’t really been a small town since the 1950s What we really are is an independent suburb in the sixth-largest metropolitan area of the country, 2 miles from the 12th-largest employment center in the country [Tysons].”
Noble left open the possibility he might serve the town again in some small, specific capacity.
“Otherwise, you are welcome to see me about negotiating for a return shipment of Italian beef, fixin’s for real hot dogs, or real pizza prior to my next trip to Chicago, or to stop by and kibitz about gardening as I try to transform my disaster of a yard, or talk about old sport cars,” he said.