Meet Fairfax City Council Candidates

Meet Fairfax City Council Candidates

Four incumbents, four challengers vie in May 1 election.


Michael DeMarco.

Name: Michael J. DeMarco

How long you’ve lived in your community: I have lived in Fairfax for 18 years with my wife Joanne and three children.

Family info: My wife and I have raised our children, Anna, Emilia and Antonio in Fairfax City. Joanne is a teaching assistant at a private elementary school in the City. Our oldest is a business graduate and works in New York City. Our second is currently in graduate school in Higher Education Administration. The youngest is attending Fairfax High School.

Profession: I recently retired after having worked for ExxonMobil for 27 years in various, executive-level positions. I have undergraduate degrees from Penn State and Temple, and an MBA from Columbia.

If an incumbent, how long you’ve served in this position: I am in my third term on City Council, having previously served as chairman of the Economic Development Authority.

Why are you running for election or re-election to this office? I am running for re-election to strengthen our principles of collaboration and problem solving. We must actively listen and learn as part of the decision- making process. And our decision making must be based on strategy and facts, and not on emotion and sensationalism. Finally, we must have a culture of regional cooperation where we look for regional solutions to common problems. In order to elevate the dialogue to achieve shared solutions, we need strong leadership on Council.

What are your qualifications for it? My personal vision statement is: “I am an active listener and learner, develop thoughtful solutions to challenges facing the community, and mobilize resources to action.” The qualities that are needed to fulfill this vision are a thirst for knowledge, facts and data and then the ability to turn information and insight into strategic vision and action.

I am collaborative, but deliberative. I have found in my experience that a hybrid solution is typically the best solution. This is where we find win-win solutions for the community. I am hard working, willing to roll up my sleeves and best able to effectively utilize the resources available to us.

I have very strong interpersonal and communication skills, and my career has enabled me to build a varied skill set, including sales, finance, marketing and customer service. But one of the greatest principles that I learned in business is that honesty, integrity, ethical behavior and fair dealing is critical to success and “how we get results is just as important as the results themselves.”

Platform – your issues: The biggest issue facing the City is our vision and strategic plan for economic growth. We need to play a strong leadership role with developers to deliver the right type of development, in the right location, to improve our commercial tax base and to reduce our dependence on residential taxes.

And the commercial tax base is critical to adequately address the increasing needs of our diverse population, especially in the area of affordable and senior housing. A strategy of mixed-use development, with transit access, walkability, and bikeability, will create an interconnected City, enabling an easier flow to and within our activity centers.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? Change gives us an uneasy feeling that we are doing away with our past. But without change, there is no future, and we will be bettered by places like Mosaic and Fairfax Corner. With change comes opportunity, and if we get “our” formula of economic growth right, we will not only preserve but improve our neighborhoods, we will retain our history and character, we will have the highest quality services and education, we will have a mix of housing choices, we will live in a safe, healthy and secure environment, and we will have the characteristics that will attract the next generation of residents, workers and businesses to the City.

I promise that I will continue to be attentive, thorough and diligent, and will always give careful consideration to all of the issues that we face, both locally and regionally. Effective leadership is the only way we will be able to follow through on these promises.


Joe Harmon.

Name: Joseph D. Harmon

How long you’ve lived in your community: Moved to the City in 1996

Family info: Three children, Erin (Currently active duty, U.S. Air Force); Shannon and Nathan (Attend Fairfax High School)

Profession: IT Web project manager; small business owner (E-commerce)

If an incumbent, how long you’ve served in this position: N/A

Why are you running for election to this office? We are at a critical juncture in the life of the City. Development in the City is at an all-time high. It’s a good problem to have that people want to be here, and the development community wants to build here, but what we build now will determine our future.

Imagine an innovative, mixed-use commercial destination that brings people to Fairfax. Think of a place in Fairfax that is like the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. We have a choice: We can be the destination in the heart of Northern Virginia, or we can be little more than cut-through strip malls. I want to work to make the City of Fairfax a place to go to.

What are your qualifications for it? I have served on the City of Fairfax Industrial Development Authority (four years), the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (eight years; four years as chairman), and currently am serving on the Planning Commission (four years). This experience and involvement demonstrates my commitment to the success of our community.

I have a Masters in Business Administration and a Bachelors in Business Administration from Averett University. I have earned a Project Management Professional certification. Most recently, I earned a Virginia Planning Commissioners certification from Virginia Tech.

Platform – your issues: I will concentrate my efforts in three priority areas:

*Home Neighborhoods – The City of Fairfax is to be first and foremost a place to live. Where we choose to live matters. We must work with our Zoning and Planning Commissions to ensure balanced change and smart growth. Preserving the unique character of our neighborhoods is important to me. They must also be affordable and accessible and include options for aging in place.

*A Place to Go To – Destination, destination, destination. Building activity centers in the City that people purposefully go to is key to the long-term success of the City. The retail business is changing rapidly in our country, not just here in the City. We are becoming a point-and-click purchasing society. Quickly fading are the days of going to the store; it’s easier now to shop from your living room. Brick and mortar business must be more than a place to buy items off a shelf. Tomorrow’s retail must find a way to combine entertainment, shopping and places to gather.

*Parks and the Arts – Our parks speak to the quality of life we have in the City. Our arts speak to our ability to enjoy our environment and express creativity and imagination. This is what makes living here special and unique. Our parks within our neighborhoods are part of what provides a sense of community and small-town America that makes the City of Fairfax exceptional in Northern Virginia.

Having said that, we need to take care of what we have. Our Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan calls for improvements going forward that will be costly, but with the right application, will be excellent investments for our future.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? My experience and involvement in the City have made me well-prepared to serve on City Council. Mostly people should consider me the best person for the job because I know how to actively listen to people. I carefully consider all the concerns regarding an issue, and then make an informed decision.

If elected, I will work to ensure livable home neighborhoods, a thriving City economy and vibrant, walkable places to work, shop and play.


Janice Miller.

Name: Janice Miller

How long you’ve lived in your community? City resident since 1970. Homeowner in Providence Square Condominiums.

Family info: Widow, four adult children (Tim, Ben, Adam and Betsy) and four grandchildren (Drew, Matt, Zach and Alexa).

Profession: Travel counselor, former middle-school teacher

If an incumbent, how long you’ve served in this position: Three terms: 2014 to 2018 and 1992 to 1994. City School Board member for nearly 30 years.

Why are you running for election or re-election to this office? I am running because I believe in this community and I want to represent residents’ views on City Council. I bring a strong voice and decades of community experience to City Hall.

What are your qualifications for it? My qualifications include extensive experience as an elected and appointed official, as well as an active school and community volunteer. Over the past four years, I’ve been an active and attentive Council member. In the past, I’ve provided robust leadership on the City of Fairfax School Board as chairman, and I’ve held leadership positions with youth organizations such as the Fairfax Little League (first female president), FPYC (girls basketball coordinator) and PTA organizations. I have a solid record as a consensus builder, working collegially with other elected officials, residents, fellow volunteers and City staff members to “get the job done.”

Platform – your issues: Local government is all about “taking care of business.” Issues demanding thoughtful analysis and conscientious deliberation include: *Conducting City business by engaging the community in a transparent and open setting;

*Adopting the new Comprehensive Plan as a strategic tool for sensible economic growth;

*Supporting neighborhood renaissance and plan for diversified housing options;

*Encouraging and promoting walkability through sidewalk and trail connectivity;

*Partnering with the School Board to provide outstanding opportunities for all students; and

*Preserving our excellent City services at the lowest-possible tax burden.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job?

My years of public service offer a unique perspective of our community, and my leadership in elected and volunteer positions has taught me many lessons. My commitment to continuing as a dependable, productive, hard working and caring member of the next City Council remains as strong today as it was four years ago. I value collegial working relationships with other elected officials and staff, thoughtful review and analysis of City business matters, listening to others and providing outstanding constituent services to all citizens. I pledge to do my best for each City resident and members of the business community.


Jennifer Passey.

Name: Jennifer E. Passey

How long you’ve lived in your community and in the City: My family has lived in Country Club Hills since moving to the City in 2010.

Family info: I have been married to my husband Michael for 17 years. We have four sons, Eamon (14), Liam (12) and twins Colin and Declan (8).

Profession: Marketing & Communications Manager at Girls on the Run of NOVA, a nonprofit located in the City of Fairfax.

If an incumbent, how long you’ve served in this position: I have served on City Council for just seven months. I was elected in September 2017 during the special election to fill now-Mayor David Meyer’s former City Council seat.

Why are you running for re-election to City Council? I care deeply about the City of Fairfax; and as the newest sitting member of Council, I am just getting started. The City is a wonderful place my family calls home. We are at a pivotal time in our City’s history, with a number of redevelopment projects in the pipeline. This is the time to implement positive change to see that our City remains a vibrant, safe, close-knit community for all in the near future and for generations to come.

What are your qualifications for it? I moved to the Washington Metropolitan Area from Minnesota in 1995 to attend The George Washington University, where I received my B.A. and, later, my Masters in Political Management. As an issue- advocacy specialist with over 15 years of professional experience in Washington, D.C.; New Delhi, India; and Dhaka, Bangladesh, I have continuously looked for ways to use my skills and knowledge to contribute and give back to the community since my family’s arrival in 2010.

As a current member of City Council, I presently serve as our City’s representative to the Climate Energy & Environmental Policy Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. And prior to my election to City Council, I served on the City’s Planning Commission from 2011-14, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board from 2012-14, and the Country Club Hills Civic Association from 2010-12.

Platform – your issues:

*Strategic Economic Growth - A vibrant and healthy commercial tax base is necessary to secure our economic future, as well as support the high-quality services the City currently provides its residents. While maintaining our community’s character and traditions, now is the time to focus on improving and growing key commercial areas in our City. In addition, we need to look at incentives to encourage businesses to remain, expand and start up in the City.

We cannot address our growth, development by development – we need a real vision. The Comprehensive Plan we are in the midst of finalizing needs to serve as our collective roadmap for the way ahead. In addition, we cannot continue to raise our tax rate to account for any stagnant growth. We need to spend wisely and take steps to increase our commercial tax base.

I will work with the community, my colleagues and City staff to finalize this vision and communicate the brand of our City to attract the type of businesses that would do well. Lastly, I want to see us work closer with GMU at all levels and further cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit within our City.

*Communication and Civic Engagement - Good communication starts with listening. Residents and businesses deserve to have more personal engagement opportunities to express concerns, interact on upcoming meeting-agenda items, and provide feedback on the decisions made by those elected to represent them. Additionally, we need to be more proactive in seeking a more diverse representation of our City’s population in our community leadership roles.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? Fairfax City voters should cast their ballot for me because of my experience, knowledge and desire to move our City forward in a positive direction. As a current member of the City Council, as well as having served on the Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, my neighborhood civic association, and as a marketing and communications professional, I have the skill set and passion it takes to be an effective member of your City Council for the 2018-2020 term.


Tom Ross.

Name: D.T. “Tom” Ross

How long you’ve lived in your community: For 38 years, in two neighborhoods, Old Lee Hills and Fairview.

Family info: Married 46 years, two adult children: Michael, works in local government, has a son, 8; Brian is married and works at George Mason University. Michael and Brian were raised in the City of Fairfax and attended City schools. Henry, our 9-year-old Labrador retriever, is also an essential part of our family.

Profession: Retired from the National Park Service as the assistant director for Recreation and Conservation, where I administered national programs working in partnership with state, local and nonprofit agencies to provide close-to-home park and recreation opportunities. Served as executive director, Maryland Recreation and Parks Assn., for six years.

Why are you running for election? The City of Fairfax, where I have been involved for 38 years, is facing unprecedented change. In the next few years, we will be making significant decisions on our Comprehensive Plan, development and redevelopment throughout the city, and working to sustain our quality of life and sense of community. My experience in this community has prepared me to help make those decisions that are critical to our future.

What are your qualifications for it? Ten years of service on the Planning Commission, including three years as chairman; chair of the City’s Electoral Board; a leader in Fairfax City’s Citizens for Smarter Growth; a member of the City Charter Review Commission; Past President of two neighborhood associations, Old Lee Hills and Fairview; chair of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Committee of the 2020 Commission; and advisory member of the Van Dyck Park Master Plan.

Platform – your issues:

*Sustainability for the future. We need to plan now to create the kind of community in future years that provides excellent police, fire and emergency services; excellent schools, access to quality park and recreation opportunities and that sense of place that is a trademark of our community.

*Protecting and preserving our neighborhoods. Through thoughtful planning, we should work toward creating new development and redevelopment in a manner that lessens negative impacts on our neighborhoods.

*Enhancing our sense of community. Continuing our special programs and events and other special events brings all ages and backgrounds together in a way that celebrates our community.

*Strengthen our historic Old Town. Our historic downtown is the core of our community and continues to struggle economically. We need to partner with the business community and others to help create new opportunities for businesses and increase access to our downtown.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? My family and I moved to Fairfax in 1980 and have made this community our home. For over three decades, I have been involved in the life of this place we call home and have served in leadership roles helping to define and improve the City of Fairfax. This engagement in all aspects of our community has provided me with the experience to address the challenging decisions we will be facing in the next few years. I truly believe, at this time and place, that experience matters – and I look forward to serving our citizens as a member of your City Council.


Jon Stehle.

Name: Jon Stehle

How long you’ve lived in your community: Homeowner at Oxford Row Townhome Condominiums since 2007.

Family info: Married to Stephanie Stehle; two children, Zoe, 9, and Cooper, 5.

Profession: Business Director, Performa. Previously, Strategic Performance Management Lead, MITRE; and Senior Analyst, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

If an incumbent, how long you’ve served in this position: I am currently serving my first term on City Council.

Why are you running for re-election to this office? The City is the place Steph and I chose to start our family, and I am proud that the City of Fairfax is Zoe and Cooper’s hometown. I am running for re-election to continue to ensure you get value for your tax dollars with top-notch services, to continue to engage with local businesses to move our economy forward, and to continue to work to maintain our City’s unique community feel.

What are your qualifications for it? In addition to serving on City Council, I also serve on the Board of Directors of Oxford Row Townhome Condominiums and on the Board of Directors for the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis. Previously, I served as the chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for the City.

As part of my role on City Council, I represent the City of Fairfax on the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments’ Chesapeake Bay & Water Resources Policy Committee and on the Virginia Municipal League Environmental Quality Committee.

I am a member of the Providence Elementary School PTA and also a girls lacrosse coach with FPYC. I have a Master of Arts in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Platform: If elected to serve a second term on City Council, I will continue to:

*Focus on integrating targeted, smart, redevelopment opportunities that include a variety of housing and transportation options.

*Engage with our business community to find ways to work together, both in person and virtually – as we did this year with our Economic Development Authority for Restaurant Week – to ensure the City will continue to have a healthy and prosperous commercial base.

*Partner with our School Board – as we did this year resulting in the City receiving recognition in the Stairway to Success Program for the work our community does in early childhood education – to continue to provide outstanding opportunities for our students.

*Be available to all residents and listen to your views so that I can better advocate for the future of our City.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? I am proud of the work we have done this year on City Council, including partnering with the Association of Government Accountants to produce the City's first annual Citizen Centric Report, and maintaining our Silver Award status in the Go Green Initiative for our work in implementing environmental policies and practical actions.

I am proud of the relationships I and my colleagues have built with communities across the City, with George Mason University, especially the George Mason Student Government, and with jurisdictions throughout our region. I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to work together to shape our collective future.

The next team of six on City Council will continue to provide the direction for the future of the City. I bring experience, commitment and an engaging approach to the City Council. I ask for your vote on May 1 to continue to serve you with integrity, representing your needs on Council.


Sang Yi.

Name: Sang H. Yi

How long you've lived in your community: My wife Sarah and I were some of the earliest residents of Cameron Glen since 2013, and I served as my neighborhood's inaugural HOA president.

Family info: My wife and I have two young children, Evelyn (turns 4 on Election Day) and Harrison (2). Sarah and I chose to settle in Fairfax City as a young family, and both of our children were born as City residents.

Profession: I have extensive government experience. I currently serve as a senior aide on Capitol Hill, focused on government oversight and natural resources issues. I previously served in the Defense Department at an intelligence agency. I also currently serve as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and received my commission from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. I am a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, and the George Washington University Law School.

Why are you running for election to this office? I love our City and the people who make it special. I have dedicated my entire adult life to service, and I view the opportunity of serving on the City Council as a civic duty to my fellow residents and neighbors. While many of us have busy lives with work, family or various personal challenges, I want to help people stay connected to our City as a community. I also want to help preserve the character and family-friendly environment of our City and promote economic development.

What are your qualifications for it? I have served our community in various capacities and have high-level experience in government. I have been closely engaged within our community as the former appointed City member to the Fairfax Alcohol Safety Action Program Policy Board, the 2nd Vice Commander of our local American Legion Post 177, and as president of Cameron Glen HOA. Professionally, I have experience in reviewing the efficacy of government policy. I have adopted and exercised leadership principles from military training for more than half of my life.

Platform - your issues:

*I will advocate for the most efficient and disciplined use of City taxpayer dollars to ensure we keep our tax burden low, while maintaining our excellent level of City services.

*I will seek to preserve the character and family-friendly environment of our City through sensible development. While growth is an important factor in our City’s success, we must ensure how we grow does not adversely impact the level of services we enjoy or further congest our roads. I believe that sensible development includes appropriately located and robust commercial and retail economy in our City with a proper balance of residential growth.

*I will work collaboratively with our School Board to promote a strong City school system dedicated to delivering a first-rate education to the students of Daniels Run Elementary, Providence Elementary, Lanier Middle and Fairfax High School. Among other focus areas, we must ensure that both physical and program capacities are not overwhelmed.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job? I pledge to be a transparent, collaborative and thorough Council member. I will be focused on listening to and understanding your concerns and incorporating your input to our solutions. With my experience and engagement in our community, I will always do my best to ensure that we all enjoy a high quality of living as residents of the City of Fairfax. I would be honored to earn your vote on May 1.


So Lim.

Name: So Lim

How long you’ve lived in your community: I’ve lived in the Fairfax community for 19 years and plan to live in the City indefinitely.

Family info: My husband Mark Hardy and I have been married 17 years and have two children each. My two sons, Corey and Ryan, graduated from City of Fairfax schools. Corey is Federal Channel Account Manager at Gigamon and Ryan is studying in South Korea at Yonsei University, pursuing a Masters in International Studies.

Profession: I own and operate an insurance agency that I founded in 1992 and is now one of the largest in the commonwealth. I’ve received many awards for my business and entrepreneurship, including Community Service Awards, President’s Award and Top Producer award, and have over 5,000 clients.

Why are you running for election to this office: I immigrated to Springfield with my family when I was 12 years old. I come from humble means, but with strong family Christian value and a strong work ethic. Now that I found success in business and my children received a world-class education, I want to give back to the community that has been generous to me and given me and my family so much opportunity.

I have a long history of service to the Northern Virginia area and Korean American Community in the DMV area. I want to bring my entrepreneur experience and leadership skills to offer new and fresh ideas and perspectives to create and deliver our vision – the best place to live, work and play.

What are your qualifications for it: I’m well-connected to GMU and serve on its School of the Arts Board and Korea Board. I understand how the university hopes to develop in the next few years. I was 38th president of the Korean American Association of the Washington Metropolitan Area from 2015-16 and was honored by a joint resolution from the Virginia General Assembly in 2017. I’m an active member of the Farrcroft community and the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. I also serve as president of the U.S. Chapter of the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation.

Platform – your issues:

*I hope to improve communication between City residents and City government. Since the day I decided to run for office, I’ve knocked on doors throughout the City to listen to neighbors and discuss proposed solutions. Once on City Council, I’ll continue knocking on doors in our community. I’ll also create a constituent survey, regularly speak with civic associations and community groups and hold office hours. I strongly support efforts to make City government more transparent and accountable.

*I’ll use my business experience and international relationships to initiate an international, business-incubating program, collaborating with GMU to attract technology firms from abroad, as well as forming a sister-city relationship from abroad to globalize our economy.

I’ll commit to having an International Festival to embrace diversity into our community, and festival proceeds will benefit the police and fire departments. This festival will not only showcase different ethnicities and cultures, it will be an event creating more foot traffic to downtown, not only from City of Fairfax folks, but from the county, as well.

*I’ll make sure public safety is a top priority. Several years ago, one of my close friends was badly injured while crossing Old Lee Highway. While improvements have been made, I’ll push for safer sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths so all residents can safely travel throughout the City.

*I’m committed to supporting and seeking out diverse housing options. I’ll review, revisit, communicate with all stakeholders, and conduct tough but necessary discussions to ensure there’ll be housing options for all people.

Why should people vote for you – why are you the best person for this job: As a Council member, I’ll listen to all City residents to learn every side of an issue and roll up my sleeves to tackle all challenges that arise. In my entrepreneur experiences, I’ve found that common-sense approaches to problem solving are the best way to lead. That’s what I promise to do for you and for the City of Fairfax. I’ll represent and listen to everyone to create new and creative solutions to the issues we face as a community, using my experience and unique background.