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Arlington2021 board chair looks back on wild ride at the helm

2021 board chair looks back on wild ride at the helm

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His year at the helm of the Arlington County Board not only was bookended by COVID – the rollout of a vaccine at the beginning and the arrival of the fast-spreading omicron variant at the end – but the pandemic seemed to make its impact felt all throughout Matt de Ferranti’s year as board chair.

“Serving as chair last year was both the greatest honor of my life and the greatest responsibility,” de Ferranti told the Sun Gazette on Jan. 3, as he planned to turn the gavel over to incoming board chair Katie Cristol.

(The handover had been expected to occur that evening, but was postponed to Jan. 4 due to weather conditions.)

De Ferranti’s year as chair began in early January 2021, and the surprises started early.

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“I did not expect to need to impose a curfew on my second full day as chair due to the rioting and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,” he noted.

But addressing COVID and its myriad implications was the issue that was at the top of the to-do list for much of the year.

“In the first three months, when supply was short and we had to advocate for more supply from Richmond, it was very difficult to have to share that the national supply of vaccines meant Arlington residents would need to wait,” de Ferranti said. “In May, June and July, I was surprised by how much of vaccine distribution was attributed to me.”

“Overall supply and our staff and our community are the primary reasons we have the highest percentage of residents with one dose in Virginia, at 93 percent,” he noted. “Over the past two weeks, it has been difficult, because we do not have the supply of tests that we need due to the national shortage. I’ve been reminded of how important it is to communicate the work we are doing to increase supply and how difficult this pandemic is for all of us.”

Board chair is a position that rotates among the five members of the body – currently all Democrats – on a calendar-year basis. For de Ferranti, who was first elected in 2018, it was his first time wielding the gavel.

Coming up next for de Ferranti? A decision on whether to seek re-election. He is expected to do so.

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