Nearly 50 people gathered Sunday morning in Clifton to dedicate the town's caboose plaza to former Mayor Jim Chesley. An engraved plaque atop a cement pillar there commemorates his 28 years of "outstanding service and contributions" to the town.
Chesley chaired Clifton's Architectural Review Board, served on the Town Council, was vice-mayor and, for 14 years between 1992-2006, he was the town mayor. And the many dignitaries and friends who came to honor him Sunday had nothing but praise for all his hard work.
"Jim was a real leader here and in the Occoquan Watershed," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th). "He had a great vision here and in the regional areas and was exemplary [in his actions]."
Davis then joked that "It's my 28th year in elected office, and I've never had anything dedicated to me." So Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) piped up: "If you retire, Tom, we'll do something for you."
Springfield District Supervisor Elaine McConnell, who worked with Chesley on a myriad of issues over the years, said he's "done so much for the town and is just a nice guy. Jim, we love you."
Calling local government the place "where the rubber meets the road," Connolly said local officials have to "deliver for citizens, and good service is a noble calling. Jim reached out and made a big difference for the Town of Clifton and the County of Fairfax."
Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th) referred to Chesley as "not only a personal friend, but part of a great team — and I hope everybody recognizes the work [Chesley's wife] Jennifer's done, too."
Sen. Jay O'Brien (R-39th), a longtime Clifton resident, noted all the good public relations Chesley did "for our little town and community." So, he told Chesley, "For all the things you did that people don't know about, thank you, Jim."
Current Clifton Mayor Tom Peterson said Chesley deserves the recognition he received on Sunday. "He's a good person, and Clifton is the way it is largely because of his efforts," said Peterson. "And out of office, he continues to help Clifton."
Next it was Chesley's turn to speak. "I'm very proud of what we've gotten done, but I look around and see the people who've helped me, the whole way," he said.
Chesley then individually acknowledged how each of the dignitaries and other friends there had lent him a hand, such as McConnell, who he called his "mentor and friend for years." Also thanking his wife and mother for their support, he ended by saying, "It's been a good run."
Afterward, Lynne Garvey Wark, who co-chaired the recent Clifton Candlelight Homes Tour with Jennifer Chesley, said, "Jim has led this town with energy, intelligence, imagination and love — and we've been delighted to honor him today."