Judy McNamara wants to bring a breath of fresh air to Clifton's town government and, as a candidate for mayor, she believes she's the best person for the job.
"I'm running because I'm a positive alternative to the other two candidates," she said. "Wayne Nickum was mayor for 10 years, and Jim Chesley's been mayor for 12 years, and I believe it's time for a change."
A CLIFTON resident since 1986, McNamara, 52, and husband Tom have four children, sons Sean, 23, Jamie and Kevin, 20 (twins) and daughter Katie, 16. She's served on the town Planning Commission, is on Clifton's Community Emergency Response Team and has been a CBA (Clifton Betterment Association) member for 15 years.
Almost half the town's residents have moved to Clifton over the past five years and, said McNamara, "Very few of them are involved in any aspect of town government. Half the community is in no way involved. Why not?"
"I believe it's the job of the council — all six members, including the mayor — to reach out to all the new people," she said. "I don't think the town has done this. It's not the new residents' job to find out what's going on in the town government."
Such behavior, said McNamara, "really is inexcusable in this day and age. We only have 87 households. We say we're such a friendly town, but ... When I go out campaigning, I ask people if they know the names of the town clerk, treasurer and Town Council members. A lot of the new people don't know who they are."
However, she said, they know the name of CBA president Michelle Stein because the CBA approaches them. "It's not impossible," said McNamara. "We have to educate and communicate with these people, all the time."
If elected, she has several goals. "I want everybody informed and getting [council] agendas at their homes, seven to 10 days before the meetings, either by e-mail or mail," she said. "And minutes of council meetings shall be distributed within seven days of the meeting, so people will know what's going on, even if they couldn't attend."
McNamara would also establish a six-member phone tree — the mayor and council members — who'd call or e-mail residents who they know would be interested in particular items on the council's agenda. They'd also be available to answer questions after meetings.
"That way, everybody would know what's going on," she explained. "There'd be no problems and no rumors. We're smaller than most homeowners associations — it can't be that difficult communicating with people. I believe in full disclosure."
TOWN RESIDENTS would also receive a copy of the town budget, seven to 10 days before it's voted on. "We'll hand-deliver it, if we have to, so people can have input into it," said McNamara. "They should know what the revenue and expenses are here. I don't know these things, right now, but it shouldn't be because I didn't go to a meeting."
Currently, she said, "I think the council meetings are way too long, way too boring and way too negative. I wouldn't be part of something so negative, and I'd do the council meetings a different way — in the round — a big circle including the mayor, council members and [attendees]."
That way, said McNamara, everyone would be on the same playing field. "This is a community," she said. "People would feel comfortable saying what they have to say, without someone responding with negative [words or body language]. If, for example, someone rolled their eyes, I'd ask them to explain [their reaction] in words. Everybody has value, and so does every statement they make. That kind of behavior doesn't build community spirit and trust between people, or respect for each other."
She also wants the town to take its historic designation more seriously. With old and new houses, plus new construction on old homes, Clifton's current ARB (Architectural Review Board) guidelines deal with all these entities.
"But trying to encompass [everything] in one set of guidelines actually waters down the regulations regarding building-materials and design," said McNamara. "I think that'll threaten our historic designation. There should be two sets of regulations, not guidelines — one for new homes and one for improving older, historic buildings — and nobody's project gets approved if they deviate from these regulations."
McNamara also has an innovative idea regarding students. "Fairfax County 12th-graders take government," she said. "I'd like a pilot program started for all high-school seniors living in Clifton to participate in town government as interns to the council. They'd get community-service hours and the chance to learn about government, firsthand."
STUDENTS COULD write grants and list their experience on college resumes. McNamara wants it to begin this fall and continue: "It benefits both them and us; Clifton gives back to the kids, and they learn about government [in a meaningful way]."
As a former nurse and nurse manager/educator, she believes she has the excellent management and communication skills needed as mayor. "I want to do this, and I can," she said. She opened a Clifton flower shop having never arranged a flower. But she learned the basics and, 15 years later, her business is still flourishing.
"You've got to learn something new, every day; and to last, you've got to be honest and have integrity," said McNamara. "You've got to sell a good product and provide impeccable service, and this type of integrity I'll bring to the mayor's office."
Also noting she's the only mayoral candidate in town 24-7, she added, "I have no personal agenda, I don't owe anybody a favor and I don't have any baggage. I bring fresh blood and new ideas to the town government."