Vienna embarks on new political era

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert (right) takes the oath of office from Vienna Town Clerk Melanie Clark during a July 6, 2020, ceremony at the Vienna Community Center. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Vienna welcomed its new mayor and Council members July 6 with an unusual ceremony that was part official business and part festive reunion.

Town Clerk Melanie Clark administered the oath of office to Mayor Linda Colbert and newly elected Council members Ed Somers, Charles Anderson and Ray Brill Jr. in a ceremony at the Vienna Community Center.

Colbert, who had served on the Council for six years before being elected mayor in the delayed May 19 election, said the community center was special to her for familial reasons.

The center’s auditorium is named after her late father, Council member Rodger Seeman, and the “Taking Flight” bronze sculpture in front of the facility is dedicated in honor of her late mother, Mayor M. Jane Seeman, plus other volunteers in the town.

“My dad was the kind of Council member who was always on the go,” Colbert said. “After dinner, he would just pop up and visit somebody’s house and look at the water problem in their yard or something. He always taught me to put yourself in the residents’ shoes and think about how  they felt about an issue.”

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and economic turmoil, Vienna remains a fine place to live, Colbert said. The town government plans to do more to help struggling local businesses, she said.

The new Town Council members, elected during a year with a bumper crop of candidates but virtually no door-to-door campaigning, already are working well together, Colbert said.

The swearing-in ceremony usually is conducted in the Council chamber at Vienna Town Hall, with Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Brett Kassabian administering the oath of office.

Given the public-health crisis, town officials acted upon a suggestion by Council member Howard Springsteen to hold the event at the community center. But with sporadic thunderstorms that evening, officials moved the ceremony indoors to the facility’s new gymnasium.

This proved fortuitous, as it brought the crowd out of the 90-degree weather and stifling humidity. Those present wore masks and largely tried to stay spaced apart, although some could not help reconnecting with old friends at closer range.

Clark swore in each official separately. During Brill’s segment, he was saluted by several members of Boy Scout Troop 345, which he helped found.

“I feel honored to be a part of this,” Brill said of his upcoming Council service. “I do not wish to be a politician. I just want to serve and make things better.”

Among his priorities on the Council: reducing business vacancies and finding opportunities to add more green space.

Anderson, who joked afterward that it was hard for a budding politician not to have been able to give a speech, said he felt like a child on the first day of school and had experienced difficulty sleeping the previous night.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” he said.

Anderson said he is eager to tackle the rewriting of the town’s zoning code and review the Vienna Police Department’s procedures to ensure that Vienna “is a beacon of justice and fairness in the world.”

Somers, who formerly chaired the town’s Transportation Safety Commission, said he was “extremely excited” to serve at his first Council meeting later that evening.

“It doesn’t seem real yet,” he said, adding that he was amazed by how much background material Council members receive before meetings.

Somers complimented staff members from each town department for conducting orientation sessions for the three new Council members. He also praised Anderson and Brill, saying they ask pertinent questions and bring much to the table, and said he admired the passion Colbert will bring to her job as mayor.

“I feel like we’re going to be a good package, with different sets of skills and different ways of looking at things,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere for collaboration.”

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