Local Commentary

Our Man In Arlington

For almost as long as anyone in Arlington can remember, the first County Board meeting of the year has been held bright and early on New Years Day. It happened again this year!

As I was driving to the meeting at the county’s office building, I saw the Board’s newest

member, Mary Hynes, trudging happily across Wilson Boulevard walking to the meeting

from her Lyon Village home. A good omen for a board meeting that was going to emphasize the expansion of the county’s burgeoning “green” programs that have rapidly gained national attention.

The New Year’s Day meeting is almost always pro-forma. The board’s chair and vice-chair are elected, the county clerk is designated, the board yearly agenda is set, and the rules of procedure are adopted. This year was no different.

What was different, however, was the election of the board’s new chair. Walter Tejada was selected, making him the first county Latino leader in Virginia.  Much of the theme of the meeting was the strength that diversity brings to a community, in stark contrast to the agendas being pushed in some other Virginia jurisdictions.

Each of the county board members spoke of the priorities they were looking for in the coming year, with Tejada leading off as chair. He outlined his three-prong Agenda for Progress: A Healthy Environment and Healthy Community, Affordable Housing, and Inclusion. They were all skillfully related in what looks to be an interesting year in Arlington politics.

Tejada was particularly moving in his closing remarks: “I am extremely proud to be a part of our Arlington Community. As someone who comes from a humble background, a proud immigrant who has found a home in Arlington, I am deeply committed to the ideals and goals embodied in our vision statement. … We will continue building a truly world class Arlington Community, OUR community: a community where each person – like me and others here today, really can live the American dream.” Nothing wrong with that!

The meeting then adjourned to another event that has become traditional in Arlington, the annual Democratic Party New Year’s reception at the home of Larry and Anita Roberts. Larry is a former Arlington Democratic Party Chair and currently Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine.

But it is not Larry and Anita who made it a tradition. For most of the forty some odd years the event has been held, the house was owned by Joe and Peggy Fisher, the long-time leaders of Arlington’s Democratic Party. Joe was a long time member and chairman of the County Board and Arlington’s first Democratic Congressman in the modern era, first elected in 1974. I’m not sure that the Roberts knew what they were taking on when they bought the house from the Fishers in 1996.

A couple of hundred packed the house and large lawn area. (Tradition also has it that the day is pretty nice, regardless of what the weather has been.) The talk centered around the important 2008 election year, who were going to be the presidential nominees, who were going to be the contenders for Virginia’s congressional seats, the large number of people who have already announced for schools board – stuff like that. And of course, the leading topic – is Virginia going to become even bluer this year? The consensus is usually a resounding yes, but we must consider the source.

All in all, it was a great day for Arlington Democrats, and they are already looking forward to next year’s party – at the Fisher-Roberts house, of course.

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