Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

clark-fcnpMonumental changes afoot for the Arlington County Board.

Now that I’ve got your attention, note only that this New Year’s Day marked one of very few in the past six decades on which the board did not hold its annual bleary-eyed organizational meeting.

Back in November, the board voted 3-2 to abandon — at least as an experiment — the morning tradition (which technically this year would have called for a Monday, Jan. 2 gathering given that Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday).

“Holding the meeting on New Year’s Day… requires several staff members to work on a rare holiday, instead of being with their families and friends,” outgoing board Chair Libby Garvey said before the vote. “By holding the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, we still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up personal and family time on a holiday.” She suggested community members would agree.

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Incoming board chair Jay Fisette and board member John Vihstadt voted nay, and the move drew a thumbs-down from the Sun-Gazette. But a letter-writer defended the experiment, saying past practice existed merely to “enable a limited number of community activists to preserve a quaint tradition” of holding a working meeting when many citizens are traveling or attending Catholic mass.

So the board waited two days to leap into action on an agenda that will include tackling such major questions as finalizing the land swap with Virginia Hospital Center and helping the school board site a new high school.

I asked all five county board members to report transparently on how they spent their first free New Year’s morn in many moons. I promised not to be judgmental.

Katie Cristol gave me detailed plans she called “slightly less than glamorous. I’ll be spending the morning of Jan. 1 having a leisurely breakfast with my husband. These days, we don’t get as many family dinners as we used to, so I’m especially glad to enjoy the first meal of 2017 together.”

Christian Dorsey told me Sunday Jan. 1 “was a terrific day. After not watching the clock last night and seeing the new year arrive in the Central and Mountain time zones, I woke up after 8 a.m. and treated my family to waffles with fresh whipped cream. Truth be told, I did some work on the remarks I’ll deliver on the 3rd, but I must say it truly felt like a holiday.”

Fisette said there was “both symbolic and practical value in keeping the tradition, but the decision was made and it’s time to focus on the work ahead.” He spent Jan. 1 “reading the paper and working on my speech for meeting on Jan. 3.”

Garvey took advantage of a chance to attend the annual New Year’s Quaker meeting. She then visited one daughter with her three grandchildren and then the other daughter and two more grandchildren. County staff, Garvey told me, probably felt torn over the issue because the board was divided, but, “I believe a number were happy about it.”

Vihstadt, instead of delivering formal New Year’s remarks on agenda items, slept until 8 a.m. “Visited my dad at Vinson Hall in McLean,” he told me. “Prowled Garden City shopping center on Lee Highway to check on garbage and sanitation complaints. Walked around the neighborhood and chatted with people enjoying the day. Happy New Year!”

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***

Credit my compatriots on the “I Grew Up in Arlington, Va.” Facebook page for the return of a sports trophy to its rightful earner.

In 1966, the Better Sports Club’s Annual Awards Banquet gave its sportsmanship trophy to Wakefield High School baseball player Larry Funkhouser. This December, the still-shiny trophy was spotted looking lonely in the Purcellville, Va., “It’s Bazaar” collectibles store.

The shopkeeper, who got it at an estate sale, originally priced it at $48 but decided to give it away once claimed. A posting on the nostalgia site run by Eric Dobson drew a stream of kibitzers, the Wakefield Education Foundation and a sleuth who found Funkhouser in a recent Arlington phonebook.
The story made the local Fox News, whose reporter delivered the trophy to a grateful Funkhouser.

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