“I have faith in the people of Vienna. They’ll make sure the town is run the right way.”
— Mayor M. Jane Seeman
Vienna Mayor M. Jane Seeman is retiring from office when her term expires in 2014, a decision she made during the 2012 election campaign.
Seeman has spent 18 years on the Town Council, from her first four as a council member, to the last 14 years as mayor. She publicly announced on Jan. 6 that she is retiring from politics to open the path for younger elected officials and to spend more family-and-friend time when her term expires on June 30.
“I’m not giving it up,” said Seeman. “I’m just not running for re-election. I made up my mind in May 2012 that I would not run again.”
IT WAS 1996 when M. Jane Seeman stepped in to fill her husband’s unexpired term on the council after his death. She ran and won seats on the council in 1997 and 1999. When then-mayor Charles Robinson approached Seeman about running for mayor in 2000, she had some trepidation.
“I was thinking I wasn’t capable at all,” Seeman said. “I felt as if I swallowed a rock.
“If you really believe in something, you have to step forward and do it. I believe in Vienna and that’s what this was all about.”
Seeman was diagnosed with lung cancer in spring, 2013, but her decision to turn the reins of the town over came a year before her diagnosis. Other than the cancer, she called herself a “healthy” person.
Throughout Seeman’s administration and in the years before, the town’s emphasis was on maintaining Vienna’s way of life, a small-town feel with a family focus, Seeman said. “It’s paid off. We have all these young families moving to Vienna, raising their kids here.”
CHANGES, other than the push to new technology, come to the town gradually. The Town Council and Vienna’s administrative departments and committees guide the development of the community, from the Maple Avenue Vision to infrastructure, such as sidewalk construction. “We don’t want to be Tysons,” said Seeman. “We want to be Vienna.”
What is a “huge” change in Vienna, Seeman said, is the town’s rapid move to technology and social media. “With new hirees, we’ve come in to it very quickly,” Seeman said. “It has changed the way we work, all of us.”
Another big change in the town is all the new homes going up, Seeman said.
Of the things outside the town’s administrative domain, Tysons redevelopment has the biggest impact on Vienna, Seeman said. “They’ve been very kind to include Vienna on [Tysons redevelopment] committees.”
Seeman said the town is doing what it can do to mitigate the challenges arising from the new Tysons. The biggest disadvantage, she said, is increased traffic congestion. A big advantage is the people who will work in Tysons but want to live in Vienna.
THE MOST VISIBLE ACHIEVEMENT during Seeman’s tenure was the development of the Town Green, a project conceived, promoted and supported by the Town Council and department directors. “Everyone works toward the same goals,” Seeman said. “We did not set out to be recognized as a great place to live in the country. Vienna is a great place to live because everyone, officials, residents, want it to be.”
Seeman’s biggest disappointment as mayor was the collapse of the proposed parking garage plan for Church Street. Since she came in as mayor, Seeman was aware that parking in Vienna was a challenge to be resolved. Parking, particularly in the Historic Church Street corridor, is at a premium.
“We try to be very transparent about where we get the money to pay for things and where it goes,” she said. “Every year, it’s a balancing act.
“We want the people in Vienna to get their tax dollars’ worth in services,” said Seeman. “It’s the way we work here.
Prices for goods go up, even the salt we use on icy streets. Sometimes, things on the wish-list have to be set aside for a greater priority.
WHEN SHE RETURNS to life as just “Jane,” rather than Mayor Jane, she’ll have more free time for her personal activities and passions, and for her family and friends. She’s been working on scrapbooks for her grandchildren. She’ll have more time to finish those scrapbooks.
She’ll be decluttering her house, doing yard projects and gardening, reading more books. And spending more time on family activities, especially those involving her grandchildren. She’s always had the support of her family in her home life and career, she said. When she thinks about her retirement, Seeman thinks, “retirement is not going to be so bad.”
Seeman’s daughter, Linda Colbert, is running for a seat on the Town Council. Current Council member Laurie Cole is not running for re-election. Council member Laurie di Rocco, vice-mayor, announced her bid for a mayoral run in 2014.
Town Hall is as much a community place as it is an official building. From open house holiday receptions to council meetings, Town Hall staff subscribes to the Vienna “way.”
“This is your building,” said Seeman. “You need to be here and visit. You’ll see this is a friendly place.”
History, said Seeman, repeats itself in Vienna. Just as her children walked around town, from school to Maple Avenue, children today do the same. “Vienna’s a safe community,” she said.
Seeman is leaving as mayor with no regrets. “I have faith in the people of Vienna. They’ll make sure the town is run the right way.