The first campaign 2023 announcement by a sitting Vienna Town Council member was newsworthy from a political standpoint and devastating from a personal one.
Steve Potter, who has served on the Council for two terms, said on May 1 he would not be joining the fray in the November election.
“It is with mixed emotions I announce that I shall not be running for re-election,” Potter said. “Being elected to Town Council [is] one of the greatest privileges of my life. I’ve tried my best to use that time wisely and to take actions that comply with existing laws and are in the overall good for the community. It’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly.”
Health problems drove Potter’s decision.
“I am currently living with the effects of diabetes and esophageal cancer and am undergoing immuno-therapy for leukemia,” he said. “Cancer for me has become a wake-up call to start living every day to its fullest and make a point to do things I’ve always wanted to do. That time has come for me.”
Potter indicated he would not pull back from his duties in the slightest for the remainder of his term – and then would come back as a resident to press his colleagues on important matters.
“There’s plenty to do and I welcome the opportunity to address our priorities and challenges right up to New Year’s Eve,” he said. “A word of warning, however: When my term ends on Jan. 1 and I start the next chapter of my life, it’s a cinch that you’ll see me again at the lectern, taking three minutes as a concerned citizen to address the latest hot issues facing the Council. Thank you for everything.”
Potter, a U.S. Navy veteran and former corporate executive who has lived in Vienna since 2004, first was elected to the Council in 2019. His campaign centered around opposition to the town’s since-revoked Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) ordinance, which had generated plenty of interest from developers, but roused a vast amount of pushback from residents worried about overdevelopment.
Potter was re-elected in 2021 and saw his term extended by six months to fit in with the new election cycle approved by the General Assembly, which moved all municipal elections from May to November starting this year.
Potter’s remarks drew applause from those in the Council chamber, and his colleagues quickly followed up with laudatory comments on his service.
“It’s a very bittersweet moment for me, because in many ways you were my mentor and reality check,” said Council member Charles Anderson. “I’m going to miss you here and I’m going to hate to see you out there. “
Anderson said he respected Potter’s decision and knew it had not come easily.
“You take [such decisions} on yourself and with your family,” he said. “They’re hard decisions.”
Council member Ray Brill Jr. complimented Potter for his “excellent service.”
“You’ve brought a businessman’s perspective,” Brill said. “You’ve brought a diligence of checking everything out to make sure we’re doing the right thing, and we really appreciate that. But you’ve done it with a sense of selfless service and a lot of class. It’s not bittersweet, because you ran, you served and there’s nothing greater than that.”
Town Manager Mercury Payton told Potter he had been praying for him and would continue to do so.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with you and will continue to enjoy working with you throughout this term,” Payton said. “On behalf of staff, we really appreciate your patience with staff, your precision, your ability to be candid while being respectful to staff and their efforts.”
Even with Potter off of Council starting next year, Payton promised he would continue to look at every single ordinance in the town code and look for obsolete ones that should be eliminated and others that should be updated.
Mayor Linda Colbert complimented Potter for his focus and meticulousness.
“You’ve been a dedicated public servant [and] you have really taken this seriously,” she said. “Your insight and your attention to detail, I will say, have been a huge asset to the town. It has been a true honor to serve with you.”