It was just last Thursday evening that the citizens decided to throw in their hats. In response to the way that Town government and staff had handled the leaf-mulching debate in a Town-owned property off Beulah Road, four citizens decided to become write-in candidates in an otherwise uncontested Vienna Town Council election.
"We just said, why not now?" said Pam Bartlett, one of the write-in candidates.
The write-in candidates — Bartlett, Mary East and Anthony Giovanniello, running for Town Council, and Edgar Adamson, running for mayor — have argued over the past several months that the Town has mishandled concerns about the Town's leaf-mulching operation.
Like the registered candidates, the write-in candidates and their supporters planned to stand outside the Vienna Community Center on Election Day to talk with voters before they enter the polls.
"What makes anyone run for office: dissatisfaction with the present government," said Bartlett, as she was standing outside handing out fliers. "I don't think they've been good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars, and I think they need to be more responsive with citizens' concerns."
Bartlett explained that she and the three other citizens decided to run because they were disappointed with the way in which the Town Council had handled their concerns of environmental pollution brought about by the Town's leaf-mulching operation. Three of the write-in candidates are members of the Northeast Vienna Citizens Association (NEVCA), which represents the quadrant where the leaf-mulching operation is located. Adamson is NEVCA president.
NEVCA HAD asked Town Council last fall to consider its resolution that called for creating a joint task force between citizens and the Town on those environmental concerns, as well as the possibility of creating a park and returning the property to natural woodland. While advocates of the resolution have said they support having leaf mulch in the town, they say the Town has failed to consider other alternatives to leaf mulching at a Town-owned property at 442 Beulah Road N.E.
By having write-in candidates, Bartlett contended that it gives voters a choice in an otherwise uncontested election.
The registered candidates are Vienna mayor Jane Seeman, Councilwomen Laurie Cole and Edythe Kelleher, and former Councilman Mike Polychrones. The mayor's seat and three Council seats are open.
"We're a committed bunch of people, and we care deeply about the town," said Bartlett, against arguments that the write-in candidates were running on a one-issue platform.
The registered candidates, who were also incumbents, said that while they support having competition, they wished the write-in candidates had made their decision earlier, giving opportunities for debates.
"I welcome challengers. I think that makes for a healthy election," said Seeman, as she was standing outside and handing out fliers. "But I feel that the citizens of Vienna have a right to know where the write-in candidates stand on other issues. I would've liked to debate them in a candidates' forum."
Councilwoman Laurie Cole agreed. "It's the democratic process ... everyone is entitled to vote. ... I would've liked to see them register as candidates and have a debate, because that gets people energized to vote," she said.
While the results had yet to be seen on May 4, at 9:30 a.m., Bartlett hoped the write-in campaign would encourage voters to cast their ballots and keep their elected officials clean.
"[We're running] just to let people know what we stand for and that you really can have a chance in the elections. It doesn't have to be rubber-stamped. And also, I think it will keep candidates on their toes, too. They know we're watching them," Bartlett said.