“To the four incumbents, congratulations on your re-election; and to Sang Yi and So Lim, I look forward to working with you, and welcome to City Council.” — Fairfax City Mayor David Meyer
The City of Fairfax made history Tuesday night when it elected its first-ever Asian-Americans, So Lim and Sang Yi, to City Council. Reflecting the nation’s growing diversity, they’ll join incumbents Janice Miller, Jon Stehle, Jennifer Passey and Michael DeMarco, who were all re-elected.
There was standing-room only May 1 in Old Town Hall, as residents and candidates alike, plus their families, watched a large screen as the voting results for each precinct came in. They cheered for everyone and, afterward, the winners spoke from the podium.
“This is going to be a unique and interesting City Council,” said Miller. “Not only do we have some ethnic diversity, we have people not born in Fairfax City, who didn’t attend Fairfax High School and who weren’t even born in the U.S., but later became citizens. And that’s a different outlook on the Council. We also have people spanning five generations.”
So, she said, “We’re going to be able to come at problems and challenges from a different perspective and craft solutions which will serve this City very well. I look forward to working with all of you to make this the very best place to live.”
Two seats on the Council came open when current members Ellie Schmidt and Jeff Greenfield chose not to run again. In all, eight people vied for the six Council slots, with Yi garnering the most votes, 2,053, followed next by DeMarco, with 1,980. Stehle received 1,940 votes; Miller, 1,926; Passey, 1,906; and Lim, 1,850. Challengers Joe Harmon and Tom Ross were defeated.
RUNNING UNOPPOSED, Mayor David Meyer was re-elected with 2,635 votes; there were 153 write-ins. And all five School Board members – Carolyn Pitches, Mitch Sutterfield, Bob Reinsel Jr., Toby Sorensen and Jon Buttram – were also unopposed and re-elected.
“All of us did something today fundamental to democracy – we went out and voted,” said Meyer. He then thanked the City’s Electoral Board, Registrar’s Office and tireless election officers “who worked all day for us. And I express my personal appreciation to Ellie Schmidt and Jeff Greenfield for their years of service to this City.”
Meyer also thanked the School Board members for “their work on behalf of all the students of our City,” as well as Harmon and Ross for their contributions to Fairfax. “Putting yourself out in front of your neighbors and making your case [for election] is not for the faint of heart,” said Meyer. “To the four incumbents, congratulations on your re-election; and to Sang Yi and So Lim, I look forward to working with you, and welcome to City Council.”
“It’s been a great pleasure getting to know the people of Fairfax [while campaigning],” said Lim. “And as a Councilwoman, I’ll continue to visit you and ask about your concerns. I really worked hard, and I want to thank [everyone who helped and supported me].”
Holding his daughter Evie, 4, while he spoke, Yi said, “Fairfax is not just a place or a home, it’s a family. I’m so grateful for everyone in this room. We can have disagreements but, at the end of the day, we’re still a family.” He also thanked his wife Sarah for all her support.
“As the demographics have changed, we don’t just have people who’ve always been here, we have people from all over,” he continued. “Families stick together, and we’re going to work through everything together.”
Passey thanked her family for all its help, plus the volunteers who advocated for her candidacy. “Thank you to every voter,” she said. “We have a great city, and I’m so proud to be standing here tonight. I look forward to working with you all to move us forward in a positive direction.”
Delighted to be re-elected, Stehle said, “From streetlights to strategic vision, it was all discussed at the polls today, and we did it in a collaborative and open manner.” He thanked Ross and Harmon for running honest campaigns. And noting how his children were involved in his campaign, Stehle said, “It means a lot to show the next generation what it means to be a democracy – to get out and engage [in your community].”
“I love doing this,” said DeMarco. “This will be my fourth term on City Council, and I’m looking forward to the next two years. We have a lot of activities hitting us soon, and we’ll have to take action on them.” He thanked his supporters and wished his wife Joanne a happy birthday, and the crowd then sang happy birthday to both her and Evie Yi, who was also celebrating her birthday May 1.
Lastly, Meyer thanked his wife Cindy for her support and the residents for re-electing him mayor. “It is a distinct privilege to serve you,” he said. “Ten years ago, when I decided to run for City Council, [former mayor] John Mason said I’d learn through campaigning how kind, thoughtful and appreciative the residents are, and that says a tremendous amount about our City.”
OF FAIRFAX’S 24,000 RESIDENTS, Meyer stressed that more than 26 percent were born in another country.
“That’s profound,” he said. “And it says they came here for the freedom we have and to be part of our democratic experience. I welcome them and look forward to great things for this City – the best is yet to come.”
Both the Council and School Board members serve two-year terms and will officially take office July 1. “It’s wonderful to run without opposition,” said School Board member Mitch Sutterfield. “I do the same things I always do – knock on doors, drop off campaign literature, plant signs and talk to people. But there’s no pressure; it’s fun.”
Carolyn Pitches has been on the Board eight years. “Education is my life’s work,” she said. “I’ve been a teacher for 20-plus years, and my kids are in our schools, so I have a vested interest in what goes on in the buildings.”
While campaigning, said current Board Chairman Jon Buttram, “People ask me about pre-K education availability for kids, AAP [advanced academic placement] and sometimes, budget questions. They also want to know the difference between our School Board and the county’s, and I like explaining this to people who don’t know about the relationship between us.
“We’re the City’s voice in education and we have a really solid partnership with the county that’s beneficial to both of us,” he continued. “We’re more than 40 percent of the City’s budget and we’re fully cognizant of our responsibilities.”