Many Vienna residents have never had a candidate for mayor knock on their door. That is about to change. May 2 will mark Vienna's first contested mayoral election in 16 years. Challenging incumbent Mayor Jane Seeman is Town Councilmember George Lovelace.
Seeman, who is finishing her third term in office, said her favorite part of the job continues to be working with the town's citizens. "When they e-mail me with a problem and I can help them, that's the best thing," she said.
Lovelace said he decided to run at the request of a number of citizens.
With the campaign just getting underway, the candidates have begun laying out the platforms of issues they plan to run on, some of which they have in common.
Overcrowded parking downtown, particularly in the area of the future Town Green, is a major concern of Seeman's, she said. To remedy the situation, she has been working with the owner of a nearby vacant piece of property, which she would like to have paved over for a parking lot, she said. She has also been working out arrangements with the owner of a lot across from the Freeman Store to make the lot available during events on the Green and has been sending out letters to the surrounding businesses asking for suggestions.
She said she would also like to work with Fairfax County to address the issues raised by proposed developments around the edge of town, particularly Tysons Corner and Metrowest.
"If it's going to be transit-oriented, the phasing of this is going to be important," she said, pointing out that if the condominiums are built before the facilities and retail centers that are supposed to surround them, the result will be an even greater influx of traffic in town. Seeman also said she would like to see the proposed density of the developments lowered. The foundation for any of these accomplishments, she said, would be a solid relationship with the county.
The mayor also pointed out that, with real estate values appearing ready to level off, fiscal responsibility will be especially important to the town, which may lose some of its real estate tax revenue. "We've got to make sure the budget is really tight so we're not caught short," she said.
And improving communication with citizens is a constant process which she hopes to continue, said Seeman.
LOVELACE SAID HE TOO foresees major challenges being presented by the developments on the edge of town, the foremost being transportation.
"We're going to have some additional pressures as pertains to traffic," he said, adding that he will want better public transportation to the Metro and other facilities in town, particularly for seniors. He said he would like to work with Fairfax County to see that Vienna is included in whatever additional bus services the county develops in the area.
Lovelace said he would also like to work with the county to expand Patrick Henry Library to accommodate an increase in clientele from the surrounding developments.
Drainage problems resulting from infield development within the town also present a concern Lovelace said he would like to address, as do the overcrowded parking lots downtown. He said encouraging shared parking between businesses is a temporary answer, but he would like to work with the business community to develop a more lasting solution.
Traffic appears to be a popular concern among Vienna citizens as well. Resident Susan Monaco said traffic is her biggest concern with the town, particularly along Maple Avenue, where she said the lights could be better synchronized. "I think Metrowest is going to be a huge issue because traffic on Nutley is bad enough to begin with," she said.
Marge Javins said she only worried about "continued crime watch and the traffic."
A halt in the rise in property taxes topped the wish list of new Vienna resident Daniel Stux.
Laura Cromartie said she wants to see "smart planning and less ugly shopping areas. Specifically, I'd like the shopping on the street and parking in the back."
ASKED WHY THE PUBLIC should vote for her, Seeman said, "I think the town has done very well under my leadership," adding that it was during her time in office that Vienna was named the fourth best place to live in the U.S. by CNN Money magazine.
She said she has worked closely with the citizenry throughout her time as mayor, keeping her office open and staying visible in the community. "It's that two-way communication that I'm looking for," she said.
Seeman also pointed out that she started the annual Volunteer Recognition Reception for citizens who contribute to the town, as well as the annual Public Works Open House to acquaint residents with the town's Public Works facility. She also said she took action to ensure that each department's agendas were posted on the town's Web site and available to the public.
FOR HIS QUALIFICATIONS, Lovelace pointed to leadership qualities gained in the military, on the Town Council, in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the business world.
He described himself as being responsive to the needs of his constituents.
"If you bring an issue to me, I will address it. I can solve problems," he said. "I know how to work with people at all levels, high and low, to get things done."
Lovelace is a retired lieutenant colonel from the Army Signal Corps, has served for 18 years on the Town Council, was a state delegate for the 1996-97 term and has worked as a telecommunications manager for Boeing, the Computer Science Corporation and the General Services Administration.
Also, he said, he was a co-founder of the Malcolm-Windover Heights Civic Association, sat on the Town Planning Commission as a member and chairman, and was on the Fairfax County Planning Commission and now sits on the Fairfax County Park Authority Board and the state's library board. He also noted his memberships in local branches of the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Vietnam Veterans Association, American Legion Post 180 and the AARP.
ALTHOUGH SHE ENJOYS working in her yard, Seeman said she is afraid the yard may suffer over the next two months as she focuses on her campaign. She said that aside from yard work, she also enjoys traveling, reading, golfing, swimming, attending sporting events and musical and theatrical performances, and her grandchildren. She recently saw a performance by the traditional Irish band Cherish the Ladies at Wolf Trap and is currently reading "The World is Flat," by Thomas Friedman.
Lovelace said he enjoys golf and his grandchildren and is becoming an amateur photographer. He said he also spends his free time acting as a mediator for the Superior Court of D.C. and an advocate for abused and neglected children through Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.
He recently saw "Porgy and Bess" at the Kennedy Center and "Crowns" at Arena Stage.