Council, School Board Look to the Future

Council, School Board Look to the Future

Swearing-in ceremony at Veterans Amphitheater.

Clerk of the Court John Frey swears in (from left) Jon Buttram, Toby Sorensen and Mitch Sutterfield to the School Board.

Clerk of the Court John Frey swears in (from left) Jon Buttram, Toby Sorensen and Mitch Sutterfield to the School Board. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Before friends, family, colleagues and guests, City of Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne and members of the City Council and School Board were sworn in last Tuesday, June 24, in the Veterans Amphitheater outside City Hall.

Saying he was "deeply grateful and humbled" by the voters’ confidence in him, Silverthorne said he was proud of the new Council members and looked forward to working with them.

"As mayor, my top three priorities are strengthening our local economy, renewing civic and neighborhood pride, and enhancing our quality of life through expanding our parks, recreational and cultural activities," he said.

"To keep our tax rates low, we must have a strong business community," continued Silverthorne. "Our top priorities must remain the redevelopment of Fairfax Boulevard and continuing our progress in the City’s historic downtown. We’re pursuing opportunities to streamline City government and lessen the regulatory burdens for doing business and redevelopment in the City."

This evening, I’m also proposing a complete review of our tax structure, including our Business and Professional Licensing (BPOL), meals and bank-franchise taxes," he said. "It’s critical that our overall tax structure is competitive, or more favorable, than others in the metropolitan region. Even with this review, City residents will pay the second-lowest tax rates in Northern Virginia."

This fall, Fairfax will partner with GMU and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to explore ways to enhance its historic downtown. Quoting a former mayor, Silverthorne said, "The three R’s – restaurants, retail and residential – are critical to our downtown’s success."

Believing "we owe it to future generations to preserve open space, protect our environment and expand outdoor opportunities for our residents," he said the City’s newly approved Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan – its first ever – will serve as a blueprint to do so.

"Most impressive is that 23 percent of our community participated in this plan’s drafting," said Silverthorne. "As we work to improve downtown to residents and visitors alike, we’ll host a series of events – including a monthly downtown event dubbed TGIF, ‘Thank God It’s Fairfax,’ and Rock the Block – beginning next month."

Noting that Fairfax is a diverse community of hardworking people and close neighborhoods, he stressed the importance of civic pride and residents’ involvement in their communities and in the City as a whole. "We must enlist residents to help identify and prioritize neighborhood concerns," he said. "Then [we can] engage our City departments and individual civic associations to help make our neighborhoods stronger."

"I’m honored to serve as your mayor," said Silverthorne. "The City of Fairfax is rich in history, with unlimited possibilities for the future. With your help, anything is possible."

Council Members

Each Council and School Board member also addressed the crowd. Councilman Jeff Greenfield asked residents to contact City Hall to join him and Silverthorne as they conduct a task force to combat hunger in the City. "Fourteen percent of our kids experience hunger," said Greenfield. "We live in one of the nation’s wealthiest areas, but people are still hungry."

Saying "Democracy is a serious business," Councilman David Meyer said, "Let us strive for unity of purpose. We all want to be heard and respected – then we’re citizens and neighbors committed to this place we call home."

"It’s our job to represent all the citizens of the City and act in your best interests," said Councilwoman Ellie Schmidt. "Maintaining a vibrant business community and growing our commercial base is vital, as is the preservation of our residential neighborhoods."

Councilman Michael DeMarco said he’s enjoyed making the City a better place "for us and future generations." He, too, emphasized the importance of economic growth, strong neighborhoods, education and improving the quality of life for all the residents. And he encouraged both businesses and residents to "get involved in the governing process."

Former School Board Chair Janice Miller, now a councilwoman, plans to "work hard, study decisions and listen to and learn from residents, City staff and my colleagues. We’ll continue to offer outstanding municipal services; you, as residents, deserve no less."

New Councilwoman Nancy Fry Loftus said she’s "truly grateful for the opportunity to serve my hometown. I intend to do my best, work hard, ask tough questions and seek solutions. I look forward to serving all of you."

School Board

Robert Reinsel and Carolyn Pitches couldn’t attend the ceremony, but the other Board members did. Jon Buttram told how impressed he is with the City’s students. "I have faith that the future is in good hands," he said. "This board will continue to nurture their growth and, hopefully, be around to celebrate their successes."

"Thanks to the ethnic, religious and socio-economic diversity in our schools, our children learn things they wouldn’t learn elsewhere," said Toby Sorensen. "Because of this meeting of cultures, they come to know what it is to be a member of the world community and what an amazing role America plays in it."

Mitch Sutterfield wished Godspeed to Miller as she joins the Council. He said the budget is behind everything the Board does, and "everything that happens affects it. But no matter what may come up, the key to our success is listening to others."