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Crowded Ballot for Town Elections

At Least 11 in the Running

The ballot for the Herndon mayor and Town Council elections in May looks to be a crowded one, with at least 11 individuals looking to fill either the mayor's spot or one of the six council seats. The deadline for filing with the state Board of Elections to be on the Herndon ballot is March 2 by 7 p.m. The town elections are slated for May 4.

Both Mayor Rick Thoesen and Councilman John De Noyer, who was first elected in 1988, have said they will not seek re-election, leaving the mayor's job and one council seat vacant going into the campaign season. The mayor's race will pit current Councilman Michael O'Reilly against Planning Commissioner William Tirrell. In addition, Councilwoman Connie Hutchinson is mulling over whether to seek the mayor's job.

For council, Tirrell is contemplating also having his name on the ballot in this slot. Others already committed seeking a council seat are incumbents Carol Bruce, Dennis Husch, Harlon Reece and Hutchinson, if she bows out of the mayor's race. Unlike Tirrell, Hutchinson has said her name will be on the ballot once. Newcomers include former Councilman Steve Mitchell, attorney Mani Fierro, Planning Commissioner Carl Sivertsen and Herndon Police Capt. Darryl Smith. Resident and 2002 candidate David Kirby announced his council bid in a letter sent to the local newspapers.

There are at least four others either contemplating running or just rumored to be running, but could not be reached before deadline for confirmation of their candidacy.

* CAROL BRUCE was first elected to the Town Council in 1988 and served three consecutive terms until 1994 when she chose not to seek re-election. Bruce decided to run again in 1996 and became vice mayor in 2000 as the top vote getter, a spot she still holds.

As for running again, Bruce said, "I feel Herndon is at such an important crossroads in terms of what we want to see. Overcrowding, protecting the older neighborhoods, seeing redevelopment of the downtown, the push for a cultural arts facility, the Herndon Commerce Center ... there are a lot of really big issues."

Bruce said she would like to see some of the issues, which have been on going during her tenure, resolved before leaving the council.

She opted to become involved in politics, she said, because Herndon is the first place she has been able to call home.

"I lived in so many places growing up. I had no sense of roots. When I found Herndon, it was a place I could put down roots. I bought my first house here," Bruce said. "It's more meaningful to give back."

Bruce said she expects to file the necessary paperwork within the next week.

* MANI FIERRO has been a Fairfax County resident for 32 years, and now lives and has his own business, the Herndon Law Firm with his wife, in town. He said the decision to run for council was made after consultation with his wife.

"My wife and I made the decision that it was a good opportunity to donate time and serve the community," Fierro said. "I've invested my family and business in Herndon and would like to represent my neighbors."

He said he wanted to make a run for council in order to help create the best environment for his 1-year-old son to grow up in. He also intends to strike a balance and be an advocate for the residents and business owners.

"The decisions I will make will be the best for the town's people," Fierro said. "I would never make decisions to hurt businesses, we want businesses to come here. But not to the detriment of the residents."

He said he has almost all the signatures he needs and plans to file his candidacy papers by the end of the month.

* DENNIS HUSCH has served on the Town Council since 1994. He said he chose to run again because he is worried about fiscal responsibility and the town's ability to provide the kinds of services the people want.

"I feel what I've been doing is beneficial and I will continue to do that until someone else steps up," Husch said.

He admits he contemplated a run for the mayor's office, but decided he would not be able to devote the time required of the position because of a new job he began in September. Husch became involved in politics, he said, as a natural progression that began by being involved with his son's Boy Scout activities and with the Herndon Optimists Club.

"It's volunteerism taken to the absurd," he jokes. "But, it's what makes communities really work."

Husch said he has the required signatures to be placed on the ballot, but intends to collect more. "It's more than an issue of getting 125 signatures. It's more about getting to your people base and talking to people."

* CONNIE HUTCHINSON is on the fence about which office she'd like to seek, but she is sure about one thing, her name will appear on the ballot once.

Hutchinson, who was first elected to the council in 1992 and served until 1995 then was re-elected in 2002, said she is collecting signatures on petitions for both positions.

"I haven't decided which one yet, but I am leaning toward mayor," Hutchinson said. "Obviously, there's an open seat."

She said she has been concerned about the direction Herndon has been heading lately and even though she has often been the lone vote of objection in the past, Hutchison thinks that will change with the apparently hotly contested elections.

Hutchinson came to politics by way of her affiliation with various sporting organizations and her activism when there was an effort to close Herndon Middle School in favor of a new school outside of town.

"The council is going to change this time," Hutchinson said. "As mayor, you can pretty much set the tone and direction. Whether the council follows is up to them. It's the leadership."

* DAVE KIRBY made a run for the Town Council in 2002 after years of being involved in politics from behind the scenes. His first time as a candidate failed to yield the results he had hoped for and only spurred him on to give it another try.

"I grew up in a small town and I love small-town politics. I've always supported someone when they were running whether it was local or state office," Kirby said. "I just thought it was time to get more involved and participate."

Kirby, who retired in March after a 31-year career as a government employee and has since taken a job with Raytheon, said decisions made by the current council have encouraged him to enter the election race.

"There have been some decisions this time around that have gone against what a majority of residents want," Kirby said, namely the day laborers, infill development and the cultural arts center.

He said the attempt by the present council to create an official day-labor site to be overseen by a nonprofit group was not the solution residents were looking for. He is also concerned with the creation of smaller lots and cluster housing popping up as older neighborhoods redevelop. As for the cultural arts center, he said, it's too much money to spend without holding a referendum.

He is also quick to give the council credit for making some tough decisions recently.

"The Dulles Toll Road, I completely agree with. The Town Council did the right thing, I think," Kirby said, referring to the council's refusal to support the proposal of a special-tax district to pay for the Dulles Rail project without changes that were more favorable to Herndon.

* STEVE MITCHELL served on the Town Council from 1992-94 and then by appointment from August 1995 until the term expired in 1996. He is ready to once again ready to sit at the dais. Mitchell said his hiatus, was in part, due to the age of his children.

"Now, my youngest is in college," Mitchell said of his bid to return. "I enjoy it. I want to make contributions to my community."

He said his previous council experience and his professional experience have provided the needed assets for decision making and he considers himself to be community minded.

The land developer/general contractor, said the biggest issues facing the new Town Council are already out there — overcrowding, zoning violations, infill development and the revitalization of the downtown.

Mitchell said he has all the signatures he needs, and plans to file with at least a week before deadline in case he needs more signatures because of disqualifications.

* MICHAEL O'REILLY has got his law business off the ground, which will enable him to devote the time necessary to being mayor. A Councilman since 2000, O'Reilly said it was time to make the jump to Herndon's top elected office for a number of reasons, including the fact his youngest daughters, twins, are away at college and that Thoesen is stepping aside.

"Had Rick run, I would not have," O'Reilly said. "I would have supported him."

His four years on the council have provided O'Reilly with the experience he needs at every level, he said, including financial responsibilities, employee dealings and other aspects of being part of the machinery that keeps a town functioning. In addition, he spent five years on the town's Planning Commission and another five years on the Architectural Review Board.

"I've become a whole lot more confident," O'Reilly said. "I like to be in a leadership role. I like to help."

O'Reilly planned to file his paperwork sometime next week.

* HARLON REECE has served on the Town Council since 2000 and would like to do so for at least two more years.

"I'm relatively new to the council, but I have a lot to offer as a council member," Reece said. "I've had two successful careers, first in the Marine Corp. and then in business. A lot of that experience is valuable."

Reece originally ran for council, he said, because there were a couple of seats open and members in the community encouraged him to do so. Since then, he has come to enjoy his "third stage of life."

Reece said he is happy where he is, because running for mayor would require him to give up some of his other activities such as his involvement with the Council for the Arts, the Towne Square Singers and various civic organizations.

He said he plans to file within the next two weeks.

* CARL SIVERTSEN, a 20-year veteran of the town's Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals combined, has decided he wants to step to the forefront of town business rather than having an impact from behind the scenes.

"A few of the folks have decided to move up, move out or move on," Sivertsen said of his decision to run. "I wanted to fill one of the potential vacant ones. We all pretty much know each other and I don't want to run against my friends or be the one to knock off one of my friends. That's why I was reluctant in the past."

Sivertsen said he wants to do some things in town beyond the realm of planning, such as attracting more businesses.

Besides serving on the planning boards, Sivertsen is also an employee of the Fairfax County Health Department, working within its West Nile virus program and on community building projects. He said he cleared his candidacy with all the proper county personnel.

"You can't be the Sunday school teacher forever. You have to move up within the church at some point," Sivertsen said.

* DARRYL SMITH is 95 percent sure he will make a run for the Town Council. Smith, a captain with the Herndon Police, said he would retire should he be elected even though he would be able to serve on the council and retain his position with the force. He has been with the Herndon Police for 31 years come April and will be retiring within the next 10 months regardless of the election outcome.

"I've always been involved with the community," Smith said. "I really love this community. I have a lot to offer. You pick up a lot over 30 years. This is the next step for me."

Smith said he is circulating a petition to be included on the ballot and gauging the amount of community support for his candidacy.

"I'm pretty much settled. I'm going to go for it," Smith said. "But I still have an opportunity to change my mind."

* WILLIAM TIRRELL was the first to file the necessary paperwork to be placed on the ballot for mayor, but he is still undecided as to whether his name should also be included for Town Council. To date, there are no prohibitions to having a candidate appear on a ballot more than once, however, a bill has been proposed in the General Assembly to limit a candidate to one race.

"I was always going to run for mayor," Tirrell said. "In 2002, I ran for mayor only and this time people in the community told me I should run for both. People said the town can't afford to not have me on the dais. The goal is to become mayor."

Tirrell, a former five-term councilman, lost his bid for mayor to Thoesen and now serves on the Planning Commission, a post he will resign should he win an elected seat.

Tirrell said he "has the ability to do the job and the leadership need for the town. The mayor has specific powers. As mayor, you have the ability to set the agenda."

Regardless of how the elections turn out, he said "worse comes to worse, I'll still be on the Planning Commission."