For nearly three decades, Jim Chesley poured his heart and soul into the Town of Clifton. And Monday morning at the Fairfax County Government Center, the Board of Supervisors honored him for his long years of devoted service.
"It's been my pleasure to work with Jim over the years," said Springfield District Supervisor Elaine McConnell. "You won't find anyone more dedicated and interested in the Town of Clifton."
Chesley served as mayor for 14 years, from 1992-2006, when he chose not to run for re-election. But he first became active in the town in 1978, when he chaired Clifton's Architectural Review Board until 1984. He also served on the Town Council from 1984-92 and was vice-mayor from 1988-92.
He and wife Jennifer have two, college-student daughters, Lauren and Brienne. And Chesley's a civilian who heads logistics technology development at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda.
During his tenure as mayor, Clifton built a pedestrian plaza, renovated a historic caboose, built Chapel Road's sidewalk and a pedestrian crosswalk by the Clifton Store, acquired land for a natural sanctuary, added two new residential communities and renovated the town playground.
Chesley helped get Clifton Road designated a Virginia Byway to prevent its future widening. And together, Fairfax County and the town barred a new crossing over the Occoquan to prevent further development in the watershed and even more traffic from coming into Clifton.
On Monday, in front of Chesley's wife, mother and some close friends who came for the ceremony, McConnell read the resolution adopted by the Supervisors, recognizing Chesley's 28 years of service to the residents of Clifton.
"Through his initiative and vision, the Town of Clifton was placed on the National Register of Historic Places," she read. "[And he] endeavored to preserve the unique, historic character of the town, making it a place of note in Fairfax County and giving its residents a sense of pride in their community."
EMPHASIZING HOW county residents have also benefited from Chesley's "exemplary and distinguished public service," the Supervisors then commended him for his "outstanding commitment and notable service to Clifton and [the] county."
Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) said how much she enjoyed working with Chesley on the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and how impressed she was with his "common-sense approach" to things. Furthermore, she added, "Reflecting his personality, there's a wonderful sense of community in Clifton."
Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) said Chesley showed that — even though Clifton's a small town — it plays an important role in the region. And as the representative of Clifton's neighboring district, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), noted that both he and Chesley have done their best to protect the downzoned areas in the Occoquan Watershed.
At the same time, said Frey, "Jim helped the western part of Fairfax County grow and worked well with other districts. He was helpful in forcing people to look at the big picture."
Frey also acknowledged the $31,000 raised by the Labor Day car show Chesley spearheaded in Clifton for the family trust funds of the two police officers killed in May at the Sully District Station. Said Frey: "It was a tremendous effort and is deeply appreciated."
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) also spoke of Chesley's work on various regional boards, "making sure environmental issues and protecting the Occoquan was in the front of our minds." Addressing Chesley directly, Connolly thanked him for serving his constituents and community so well and said how much he valued Chesley's "good humor, incredible human spirit and dedication."
Then, taking the podium, Chesley called McConnell his mentor and good friend and said it's been an "honor and privilege" to serve the town, county and community. "While I was mayor, I got the opportunity to serve on other boards, and you learn other people have common problems — and you benefit from that," he explained. "And it got me to know the politicians and realize that you all are empowered by those who put you there."
CHESLEY SAID one of the things he was proudest of as mayor was the town's involvement in the HUD federal housing program. "Over two years, we placed 96 families in houses that had been fixed up very nicely," he said. "Most of them were young and 80 percent were first-time homebuyers."
He recognized his wife Jennifer's role as his "confidante, campaign advisor and secretary" and said his mother Connie taught him the importance of civic pride and serving others. Tearing up, he added, "The only person that I regret is not here today is my dad; he passed away in 1994." But, reassured his mom, "He's here."