Since his arrival in the area in 1975, John Mason has been an active member of the Fairfax area. He served on the City Council from 1986-1990 and was mayor of the city of Fairfax from 1990-2002. Although he still holds several key community concerns — namely the revitalization of several important areas around town — he’s now retired and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and exploring Fairfax County’s vast trail system. Here, Mason opens up about his view on Fairfax’s biggest challenges, his favorite community spots and how the area’s changed over the years.
Number of years in the community: 32.
Family: Wife Jeanette, sons John Jr. and Jeff, and daughter Joanna. One pet — a shih tzu
Education: B.A. in history, University of Massachusetts; M.A. in political science, New York University
Your first job: While in high school and college, summer jobs on staff of Boy Scout camp in Massachusetts. First full-time job after college was in U. S. Army (21 years, retiring as colonel).
Current job/primary occupation: Part-time (very minimal!) consulting through Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), with focus on metropolitan transportation policy.
Activities/interests/hobbies: Travel (doing Danube River cruise this year), playing with grandchildren, reading, swimming (for exercise); have continued interest in metropolitan Washington regional transportation issues.
Favorite local restaurant or place in community? Several restaurant favorites in Fairfax: Artie's, Le Tire Bouchon, La Rue 123 (Bailiwick Inn), Bellissimo, Bombay Garden, Coyote Grill.
What are your community concerns? What are some of the ideas you have on ways improve the community?
We are very fortunate that City of Fairfax leadership is closing in on a decade-long program of renovation of our key infrastructure — city schools, city hall, police station, fire stations, water plant, etc. The next major challenge — already being addressed by the mayor/council — is revitalization of the Fairfax Boulevard corridor, the backbone of our economic base.
What is the last book you read, or last movie you watched? On serious side, currently reading “Team of Rivals,” about President Lincoln's cabinet. On light side, just finished “The Saboteurs,” by W.E.B. Griffin.
What brought you here? Following tour in Germany, assigned to the Army Staff in the Pentagon. We liked it here, had three children to put through school (and Fairfax has good ones), and I was offered good opportunity at SAIC.
What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about? Our trail system. The City of Fairfax has over 20 miles of trails, designed for use by all ages. Gateway Park, at the corner of Pickett Road and Old Pickett Road, is the nodal point for trails throughout Northern Virginia —- to the north, the City of Fairfax Connector Trail goes to Vienna - Fairfax Metro station, Nottoway Park and along Tappiwingo Street to the W&OD trail; to east, city trail system connects to Accotink trail all the way to Lake Accotink; in a southwest direction, city trails go through Daniels Run Park, cross Main Street and on to George Mason University and alongside 123 all the way to Occoquan.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? While in college and majoring in history, I thought about becoming a Foreign Service officer.
If you were able to take a road trip anywhere right now, where would you go? Skyline Drive is a lovely day trip.
What are your personal goals? At this stage of life, our priority is helping children and grandchildren establish themselves.
How have you seen your community change over the years? The biggest change, as throughout Northern Virginia, is the demographics of the City of Fairfax. In the 1990 census, we were very much a traditional, largely white, Virginia community. Today, we have a wide ethnic mix, which challenges us to be innovative in how we integrate newcomers into the community and encourage their civic engagement. Although our demographics have changed, the quality of life and ambience of our community has not changed; we are the classic Norman Rockwell “town.”
What do you miss most about when you first came here? Can’t think of anything I miss from our arrival in 1975 — perhaps the less congested traffic of three decades ago.