When it comes to being mayor of Clifton, incumbent Jim Chesley doesn't rest on his laurels.
Although he's already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments for the town in his previous five terms, he's just gotten Clifton a full-time police officer to deal with speeding and is currently working to obtain traffic-calming measures for the town.
"Jim is an excellent mayor," said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield). "He thinks outside the box. The town wouldn't have gotten a lot of what it has, without his help. He always has his ear to the ground to see what's needed, and he has good judgment and knows what he has to do for the community."
A Clifton resident since 1976, Chesley, 54, has given nearly 25 years of service — all volunteer — to the town. He was chairman of Clifton's Architectural Review Board from 1978-82, served on the Town Council from 1982-92, was vice-mayor from 1988-92 and, for the past 10 years, has been mayor.
He and wife Jennifer — a speech and language pathologist at Rocky Run Middle School — have two daughters, Lauren, 16, and Brienne, 13. A civilian employee of the Navy for 36 years, Chesley is head of logistics technology development at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda.
During his tenure as mayor, the town built a pedestrian plaza, renovated a historic caboose, built the sidewalk on Chapel Road, put in a pedestrian crosswalk by the Clifton Store, acquired property for a natural sanctuary and added two new residential communities — increasing the town's size by nearly one-third.
Along with Del. Jay O'Brien and the Occoquan Watershed Coalition (OWC), Chesley was instrumental in getting Clifton Road designated as a Virginia Byway to prevent its future widening. And for safety, signs were put up advising commercial trucks not to use the narrow Clifton, Henderson, Yates Ford and Chapel roads.
Clifton and the OWC also worked successfully with Fairfax County and VDOT to have the Yates Ford bridge rebuilt at two lanes, instead of three, as VDOT planned. This prevented the Prince William Parkway from joining the Fairfax County Parkway via that bridge, thereby stopping the widening of Yates Ford, Henderson and Chapel roads into four lanes — as VDOT also intended — and thousands more cars a day here.
"But the major accomplishment in transportation was when the town worked with the Board of Supervisors to have a resolution passed prohibiting any new crossing over the Occoquan Reservoir," said Chesley "This prevented further development in the watershed and the influx of new traffic into this area."
He aided the transfer of the 20-acre Webb property off Chestnut Street to the Audubon Naturalist Society to keep it as open space. And legislatively, Clifton developed a Chesapeake Bay Ordinance to protect the bay from pollution.
Since Clifton's Popes Head Creek eventually flows to the bay, said Chesley, "It's our job to make sure [that] creek stays clean. So we created checks and balances so new building developments or renovations don't adversely affect it." Also on Chesley's watch, the county agreed to do Clifton's building inspections, issue residential use permits and bond developers.
Most recently, to obtain a police officer, Chesley worked with McConnell, Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, police Capt. Dennis Wilson and Board finance chairman Sharon Bulova. He also had Clifton-area groups e-mail these officials about the need.
"If you have a relationship between the town, county, police and citizens, you can get something done," said Chesley. "You must have relationships outside the town." Now, he's seeking stiffer tickets for speeders through Clifton, plus traffic humps, raised crosswalks and a three-way stop.
Chesley also serves on other entities. On the Virginia Municipal League — the second-largest lobby in the state, he chairs the transportation committee and is on the legislative committee.
He's a commissioner on the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, dealing with issues common to localities here. And he's on the boards of directors of the OWC, the Clifton Lions Club and the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative. He's also proud to be a lifetime Eagle Scout, class of 1964.
"Over the past 10 years, I've established relationships with governors, senators, congressmen and supervisors," said Chesley. "The momentum and contacts I've been able to create on a local, regional, state and federal level are invaluable in assisting Clifton get grants and recognition on state issues, plus traffic-calming measures."
McConnell agrees. "You've got to make the right connections and meet the people who can help you in your community, and Jim does that," she said. "He's smart, cooperative and a man of integrity — the kind of person you'd like for a friend."
If re-elected, he hopes to continue Clifton's achievements and finish things he's set in motion. "My goal is to unite and preserve the town," he said. "In a town like this, each person can make a difference. Clifton has such special history and character; it's a unique place, and I want to keep it that way."
Calling Clifton "a small community and a great place to live," Chesley says residents often visit him at home to talk about issues: "It is America personified — civics in action — and I love it."