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Mayor Scott Silverthorne Announces Campaign Decision

Nearing the end of his first term, Silverthorne revealed this week whether he plans to seek re-election in May.

Fairfax City Mayor Scott Silverthorne announced this week he plans to seek re-election in May. (Courtesy Photo)
Fairfax City Mayor Scott Silverthorne announced this week he plans to seek re-election in May. (Courtesy Photo)
After growing up the son of former Fairfax City mayor Frederick Silverthorne (1978-1982) and serving roughly 20 years as a city councilman himself, current Mayor Scott Silverthorne says it's not uncommon for people to ask why he waited so long to run for mayor.

The easy answer is that he doesn't take anything about the position of mayor—or councilmember, for that matter—lightly.

"I felt very strongly two years ago that I was ready to lead," he said, after taking a few years off from serving on the council to recharge his batteries.

Now, nearing the end of his first term, Silverthorne says he is ready to announce his intention to run for re-election in May.

Looking back, he says there are a lot of things he and the members of the current Council have to be proud of, and he looks forward to a chance to continue their hard work and continue to better the lives of all city residents.

One of the biggest accomplishments of his first two years as mayor, Silverthorne believes, is the sale of the city's water system to Fairfax Water.

Though the decision was not an easy one—for many residents, owning its own water system was a point of pride that set them apart from the county—Silverthorne said he is proud of everything he and the Council was able to achieve when negotiating the deal with Fairfax Water, such as the retention of all city water employees, lower rates on the horizon, and more.

"That was a huge deal. Probably one of the most important legislative issues that any Council has undertaken in decades," he said.

"And it will provide a significant cost savings to the taxpayers," to the tune of 9 percent immediately, up to 50 percent within three years, he explained.

The sale of the city water system is one example of how well he feels the current Council and he work together.

He said in the beginning, the Council was divided down the middle about the issue, but they continued to work hard and address each member's concerns, for quite some time—and by the time the final vote came around, it was unanimous in favor of the sale.

"We always work very hard to find common ground," Silverthorne described. "This has been one of the best councils I've ever worked with. It's been a pleasure, sincerely. This council is engaged and smart, and really does their homework."

Silverthorne said, a big key to that success is inclusion.

"One of the biggest challenges [I and probably any mayor faces], I think, is building collegiality among councilmembers. You have to treat everybody fairly and equally, and you have to be a very good listener," he said. 

"I may not always agree with everyone, but I think the hallmark of a good mayor is to give everybody the opportunity to speak, to be heard, to say their piece. I've tried to make sure nobody is excluded, ever, from the conversation."

Silverthorne said the current fiscal soundness of the city is also a point he is proud of.

Though taxes went up for 2014—mostly in real estate and wastewater—Silverthorne said the city's operating budget has been fairly flat the past few years, and he always approaches spending conservatively.

He said the one area where the City has increased spending recently is in capital improvements.

"The reason we did that is because, over the past five to six years during the recession, we've cut corners in a lot of our capital needs," he explained, describing how the city had to slash spending in areas like street paving.

This year, residents may be happy to know, the city will be spending a record $1.6 million on repaving.

"That's the most ever," he said. "That's because we'd cut back on it for the past several years."

Silverthorne said he is also very proud the City has retained its AAA bond rating. He said under his predecessor, Mayor Rob Lederer, the city worked extremely hard to achieve it, and he sees it as a sign of good fiscal management that the city has retained it.

Two other areas he said he has focused a lot of time and attention on is spearheading the city's first zoning ordinance rewrite in roughly 30 years, and of course, development.

One of the largest development plans that has been approved during Silverthorne's term was the future rebuild of the Layton Hall Apartments.

Silverthorne sees it as a good sign that so many developers are starting to come forward and wanting to build in his city, but he also says he tries to keep a close eye on the city's mix of commercial and residential, and ensuring that every development that gets a green light is something that's good for the city.

"There is tremendous interest in developing within the city, and we need to be very mindful of how we absorb these developments, and [paying attention to] the impacts on our roads, schools, and so forth," he said.

"I do think we need more multi-family housing like apartments, but to go from zero to thousands is a lot," he said, explaining that he is concerned about converting too many commercial areas into residential, and spurring a negative impact on Fairfax's economy.

Other future developments down the pike soon are Fairfax Circle, Kamp Washington, and the intersection of routes 123 and 50

He also wants to continue to focus on attracting important businesses to Fairfax—which is where he said the zoning ordinance rewrite will prove valuable.

"[The way the ordinance is now,] there are too many special exceptions needed all the time. And that takes a lot of staff hours," he said. "We need to lessen the burden on businesses."

"I want people to be able to say it's easier and friendlier to do business in the city than in the county. That's when I'll know we've been successful," he said. "And we need to make sure the community is on board with some of these [proposed] developments before we move forward, too."

Overall, Silverthorne said he is very proud of what a friendly and dynamic city Fairfax is, and he hopes the voters will agree, come May's local election.

"Dollar for dollar, still think Fairfax City is the best bet around," he said, when one factors in the overall tax burden and high quality of services they provide, when compared to the county or other jurisdictions.


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Gina January 17, 2014 at 04:35 PM
FANTASTIC!! The Mayor has been phenomenal - need to keep him in office so that he can continue his stellar service to the community. His willingness to reach out and help on all issues is a breath of fresh air. Finally an elected official that is working for us.

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