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Vienna Town Council candidates make their case for election

First of two parts

Eight candidates – including three incumbents and five challengers with a wide array of experience – will vie Nov. 7 for six available Vienna Town Council seats.

The field includes incumbents Howard Springsteen, Charles Anderson and Ray Brill Jr. and challengers Roy Baldwin, Jessica Ramakis, Sandra Allen, Shelley Mountjoy (formerly Ebert) and Elizabeth Korondy. Mayor Linda Colbert is running unopposed.

Here is an overview of four Council candidates, based on questions posed to them by the GazetteLeader. This is the first of two parts; click here for the second part.

Charles Anderson has lived in Vienna since 1997 and served on the Planning Commission, Windover Heights Board of Review and Malcolm-Windover Heights Civic Association. He is a principal and co-founder of Capital Trade Inc., a firm that consults on international trade and economics.

“I have been an active voice against over-development in Vienna for many years, and since being elected to the Vienna Town Council in 2020, I have made material contributions on other initiatives, including budget reform, equity and police, parks and recreation, housing, fiscal policy and public works. The common driver of my positions on these issues is making Vienna an even better place for families and individuals to live and for businesses to thrive.

“The next Town Council likely will be working with an entirely new zoning ordinance. Going forward, my many years of experience in land use will help prevent over-development in Vienna’s commercial districts.

“If re-elected, I will also focus on serving an increasingly diverse population. I will continue to press for more diversified housing options, so that people of all economic means can make Vienna their home. Another major goal of mine is to make Vienna even more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.  And I will push for public recreational facilities for those whose needs are being the most under-served.

“Finally, assisted by my background in economics, I will continue to do the hard work to keep the town on a strong financial footing. For the past few years, the expanding tax base and ARPA funds have allowed Vienna to spend fairly freely. The good times, however, will not last forever. I will continue to look at expenditures closely to make sure that the budget remains as lean as possible and tax rates remain as low as possible, while providing residents with the services and amenities they rightly expect.”

Jessica Ramakis is a civil servant who works in education policy. She and her husband are raising their two elementary-school-aged children in Vienna.

“The town of Vienna has been my home since 2010. Before our children were born, my husband and I envisioned what life could be like as we grew our family in Vienna. As our community looks to the future together, engaging with each other to form our shared vision is essential.

“From my experience on the Town’s Planning Commission, I see the promise of providing clear information to the community as issues are being considered – and listening fully as views are expressed. This engagement will be a top priority for me if I am elected to Council.

“The combination of nature, businesses, community activities and history make Vienna a special place to live. I value that we have so many beautiful trees in Vienna and would prioritize thinking creatively about how to sustain and enrich our tree canopy. I value our vibrant small-business community in the town and would prioritize being a thoughtful partner. And I would make it a priority to support our community organizations that foster the spirit of Vienna – the spirit of service and connection to each other.”

Howard Springsteen and his wife have raised two children in Vienna the past 25 years. He is a life member of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, where he has served as president and deputy chief. Springsteen also was president of Madison High School’s Crew Club, Troop 152’s assistant Scout master and a volunteer with Community Helping Others.

“I have a history of service and commitment to our community, including serving on the Vienna Transportation Commission. I also served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.

“It has been a great honor to have served on Town Council since 2009 and twice as vice mayor pro-tem. I am running for re-election because I want to continue to contribute and make a difference in Vienna. My voting record, common-sense approach and responsiveness to citizen concerns speaks to the passion and commitment I bring to Town Council. I have balanced the need to provide key town services and activities while avoiding overburdening our residents with higher property taxes.

“My key priorities if re-elected include continuing the critical capital maintenance effort on our water-and-sewer system, expanding parks and recreational services whenever financially possible, keeping the tax rate stable, installing more sidewalks, encouraging diversified housing options and guarding against MAC-like overdevelopment along Maple Avenue.

“My 29-plus years of service with the Fairfax County government gives me special insight into Vienna issues that overlap with the county. For more information, visit Springsteen For Vienna on Facebook. I ask for your vote on Nov. Thank you.”

Roy Baldwin is an attorney.

“When my wife Sharon and I were looking for a place to settle down back in 1979, we chose Vienna because we were charmed by what a nice little town it was. Forty-three years later I still see a nice little town that attracts new families because of its excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, a vibrant but locally owned business district and a responsive local government.

“I’ve been a Scoutmaster, a PTA board member, a Sunday School teacher and vestry member, a fund-raiser for the fire department and served on many committees and boards in the town.

I’m currently the chair of the Board of Architectural Review, which I have served on since 2006. The BAR reviews all design proposals for commercial properties and for multi-family developments. I’m proud to have teamed up with fellow members of the BAR many times to do everything we can within the Town Code to keep developers from turning Vienna into a big town.

“I hope to bring all that experience to the Town Council to help guide Vienna through a new set of challenges – new developments along Maple Avenue and Church Street, encouraging small shops and businesses to settle in and stay in the town, and doing everything we can to encourage affordable housing. I want to make it so that when young families look at Vienna years from now, they will still say, “This is a nice little town.”

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The Town Council will have at least three new members come next year. Incumbents Nisha Patel, Ed Somers and Steve Potter decided not to seek re-election.

The General Assembly in 2021 passed a law moving all municipal elections from May to the general election in November starting the following year – the idea being to increase voter participation and save costs by running the elections concurrently.

The Town Council, which had opposed the elections switch, canceled the 2022 election, set the next election for Nov. 7, 2023, and extended some members’ terms to bridge that gap.

Council members scrapped the previous system of staggered elections, with three Council seats up for grabs each year and the mayor’s in even-numbered years, and instead decided to have all six Council seats and the mayor’s up for election in November of odd-numbered years. All will continue to serve two-year terms.