It wasn’t a big surprise, seeing as she’s served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors since 1996, but Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) announced Dec. 6 that she would not seek an eighth term next November and instead retire Dec. 31, 2023.
Gross recalled how when she moved to the Washington area, The Byrds had a hit song, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” which was written by Pete Seeger and echoed the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.
To Gross, then a young Capitol Hill staffer, the song was “more a peace anthem than a life plan, but over time, I have come to learn and accept that there is indeed a season for every purpose under heaven,” she told board colleagues.
“Some of the times noted in the song are especially appropriate for those of us who are privileged to be elected officials,” she said. “A time to plant and a time to reap, a time to build up, a time to speak and sometimes a time to keep silent.”
Elected officials also must contend with other challenges, including snow, budget and campaign seasons, she said.
Gross gasped and fought back tears while announcing her retirement, and said there still was plenty more to do.
“I love my job,” she said. “I appreciate and respect my colleagues and treasure all of Mason District . . . and the residents who have placed their trust and confidence in me for the past 27 years.”
Fairfax County is an outstanding place to live, work, play, worship and learn, Gross said.
“I am proud and grateful to have played a role in ensuring these opportunities for our diverse community and I look forward to the continuing success of Fairfax County and the region,” she said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) said he had watched every move Gross had made on the board while he was serving as chairman, Lee District supervisor and aide to former Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee).
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of everything you’ve accomplished and the way in which you’ve been a leader in this county and in this state and in this region,” he said. “I’m glad we’re not voting, because I would not vote to allow this to happen.”
Gross serves as the board’s vice chairman and chairs the Personnel Committee. Before being elected supervisor in 1995, she spent two decades as a staffer in various congressional offices, served on the board of the Lincolnia Park Civic Association and on the Mason District Council of Civic Associations’ executive board.
Gross also was a founding member of Friends of Mason District Park and the National Capital Area Chapter of the University of Oregon Alumni Association.
Gross is the second supervisor to announce plans to step down next year. Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who has served on the board since 2008, said in August he would not seek re-election for a fifth term.