Running for Council

Running for Council

Two challengers face three incumbents for Viennacouncil seats.

The ballots have been set for Vienna's challenger candidates for this year's May 1 council elections, which will see five residents — two challengers and three incumbents — competing for three of the town's six council seats.

Two local women who are running independent campaigns separate of each other will look to unseat incumbent council members George Lovelace, Maud Robinson and Dan Dellinger as they hope to become the first challengers in 14 years to unseat an incumbent in a Vienna council election. To do so, they will need to woo a majority of Vienna's approximate 10,500 registered voters, according to Fairfax County election records, over the course of the next month.

Those two challengers are second-time candidate Susan Stich, 44, of the Windover Heights district of Vienna, and community activist and former Architectural Review Board member Deborah Brehony of Park Street.

STICH, WHO RAN an unsuccessful campaign during last year's council and mayoral elections will try again, this year focusing more on what she called a face-to-face method of campaigning, by getting out and listening to residents while sharing her vision for the town's future.

A stay-at-home mom with an eight-year-old son, Stich is an active member of the Archer Elementary School PTA and an auxiliary member of American Legion Post 180. A former therapist originally from Charlottesville, Stich holds a degree from Chapman University, a small liberal arts school about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, Calif.

An eight-year Vienna resident, Stich said that she wants to also focus on finding workable solutions for downtown parking by speaking with residents and business owners and finding a reasonable and cost-efficient way to get Vienna's Monday night Town Council meetings broadcast on local access television.

HER BIGGEST ISSUES in this race, she said, are community safety, traffic and "common sense zoning" for Maple Avenue. Among the policies she hopes to address these concerns deals with building more sidewalks in town, investing in traffic and safety issues over larger capital improvement projects like the Vienna Town Green and mixed-use developments for downtown.

"I'm really so passionate about … keeping Vienna, Vienna, but also stepping it up a notch," Stich said, while sitting with her dogs in her home on Walnut Lane in Windover Heights. "I'm afraid that [the development] we've seen in Tysons Corner will just walk right in here, and I don't want to see this happen."

For that, Stich said she wants to "take a holistic approach" and promote mixed-use development all along Maple Avenue in downtown Vienna.

"Why are [the current Town Council members] wanting to redevelop some areas and not others?" she said.

WITH THE COLOR yellow as the trademark of her campaign — right down to her yellow walking shoes — 50-year-old Vienna resident and residential contracting company co-owner Deborah Brehony will take her first swing at politics on May 1 after throwing her hat into the ring earlier this year.

The former architectural review board member, who served from 2005 to 2006 after being appointed by council members, is also an executive board member of the Vienna Arts Society, and a member of the local Lions Club and an auxiliary member of the American Legion. Originally from North Carolina, Brehony holds a degree from East Carolina University and has lived in the Vienna area since 1979 and within the town limits for four years.

She entered the race, she said, because she has finally found the time to serve her community.

"I think I sort of looked at local or regional ... service as an opportunity to really make a positive difference," Brehony said. "And now that I have the time and wherewithal to put forth that commitment, I'm excited to put myself out there."

Some of the goals that Brehony said she wanted to work toward included finding a way to televise Vienna's Town Council meetings, as well as increase "diversity" of housing options in Vienna for a variety of different residents with different needs.

BREHONY SAID that she wants to focus her campaign on her desire to adapt to the changes happening with development in and around Vienna, and to make sure that the town's downtown corridor is revitalized, with its spirit maintained intact.

"It's like we are this little oasis and the walls of development are closing in on us," Brehony said. "I think we need to have a direction in terms of the development for where we are going."

That plan needs to make sure to account for the reality of the changes, while at the same time respecting the views of the different resident opinions and improving the economic viability of downtown Vienna, she said.

"There are people on the board who think that they don't want change, but the reality is that we are changing and we need to find some way to guide that," Brehony said. "We are at a turning point and we're either going to move forward progressively or we're going to stagnate."

"That doesn't mean we have to run all the mom and pop stores out of town … but we need to reach a point where our commercial district is as viable as our residential districts."