Vienna incumbents roll to victory

Vienna Town Council incumbents Steve Potter, Howard Springsteen and Nisha Patel and challenger David Patariu pose outside the Vienna Community Center during Election Day polling on May 4, 2021. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

A trio of Vienna Town Council incumbents held onto their seats and won two-year terms May 4, despite a challenge from a second-time candidate.

Among the victorious Council members, Howard Springsteen received 1,217 votes, Steve Potter 1,181 and Nisha Patel 1,092, according to the unofficial tally from the Fairfax County Office of Elections. Vienna Planning Commission member David Patariu came in fourth with 750 votes.

The election garnered 1,968 total votes – 1,311 cast at the Vienna Community Center on Election Day and 657 absentee ballots – for a turnout of 16.9 percent of the town’s 11,659 registered voters.

By contrast, last year’s heavily contested election, which was delayed two weeks because of the pandemic, featured three candidates running for mayor and seven seeking three Council seats. A total of 4,195 of the town’s 11,508 registered voters cast ballots, for a turnout of 36.5 percent.

Springsteen, first elected in 2009, is the current Council’s longest-serving member. He expressed happiness with the Council’s collegiality and achievements, such as enabling the start of construction on a new police station.

Patel said she had received favorable feedback on the campaign trail regarding her view that the town should take a logical approach when choosing locations for new sidewalks.

She also favors having the town government examine whether it would be beneficial to allow residents to build larger outdoor-living spaces, such as patios.

Serving on the Council has been an intensely educational experience, one that teaches patience, cooperation and prioritization, she said.

“If you don’t compromise, you won’t get anything done,” said Patel, who urged residents to continue letting their views be known at Council meetings.

“We have to prioritize what the people in town want, not necessarily what we personally want,” she said.

Potter, who like Patel first was elected in 2019, echoed that sentiment. “If you’re looking at being a Council member, the important thing is to remember you’re not an individual,” he said.

Members need to have collaborative spirits and be willing to listen, change their minds and focus on what’s best for the community, Potter said. Sidewalk construction, the zoning-code rewrite, economic development and the future of the town’s mulching facility on Beulah Road, N.E., now are the most pressing issues, Potter said.

Patariu, who also ran for Council last year, said he would keep pressing for a three-year moratorium on the town’s zoning-code rewrite and for spending down late Council member Maud Robinson’s $7 million bequest for sidewalk construction.

He also vowed to continue trying to shut down the leaf-mulching operations on Beulah Road and turn that site into a park.

“The real issue is that this could happen at any park in Vienna, that it’s suddenly converted into a property yard or a place where garbage or this kind of industrial use is happening, without resident approval,” Patariu said.

This year’s traditional election on the first Tuesday of May will be the last, unless the Virginia General Assembly changes its mind again. State lawmakers, expressing hopes for cost savings and increased voter participation, earlier this year passed legislation to require that starting in 2022, municipal elections be held concurrently with the general election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday each November.

This year’s Vienna election winners will be the last to begin their new terms July 1. Council terms usually last two years, but Patel, Potter and Springsteen will serve an extra six months through Dec. 31, 2023.

Council members elected last year also will serve another half-year because of the election changes and finish up their terms on Dec. 31, 2022, said Town Clerk Melanie Clark.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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