Three Vienna Town Council incumbents and one challenger – all familiar to town residents from previous bids – will vie for three available seats in the May 4 election.
Incumbents Howard Springsteen, Nisha Patel and Steve Potter are seeking new terms and announced their re-election bids at the Council’s Feb. 1 meeting.
Challenger David Patariu is making his second bid for a Council seat. Patariu, who has served on the Vienna Planning Commission since October 2019, was among four candidates who unsuccessfully ran as a slate in last year’s hotly contested, pandemic-affected election.
Patariu successfully petitioned the Fairfax County Office of Elections to extend the filing deadline by one week to March 9, citing difficulties in obtaining the usual 125 petition signatures under pandemic conditions.
Officials reduced the necessary tally to 50 signatures, which Patariu obtained using an online process already available to state office seekers.
Patariu said he is running to put the focus back on residents’ needs, as opposed to those of developers. He is seeking safer streets, prioritization of sidewalk construction and parks, and an examination of traffic’s impact on the town’s quality of life.
“I’ve been effective in asking tough questions of staff,” he said. “You’ve got to get to the bottom of things . . . I think on the Planning Commission I’ve been pretty good about advocating for fairness for residents, listening to their needs and trying to come up with good solutions for residents.”
As he did in last year’s campaign, Patariu favors turning the town’s mulching facility on Beulah Road, N.E., into parkland.
“The town is running an industrial mulching facility that smells [and is] loud,” he said. “Imagine residents trapped at home during the pandemic, trying to homeschool their children, and the town is running an industrial-scale leaf-mulch operation in their back yards.”
Patariu said he worked with town officials this past summer to reduce the number of days that the facility operates and the amount of mulch it produces.
“What people need to realize is ‘free mulch’ isn’t free,” he said. “There’s a cost to residents . . . Nobody is talking about ending leaf collection, but we need to move that mulching operation somewhere else so that our fellow residents don’t suffer.”
Patariu opposes the Town Council’s expenditures on consultants during the pandemic and said the town should not undertake a major rewrite of its zoning code when the public cannot meet in person to discuss its impact.
A native New Yorker, Patariu is an attorney specializing in data privacy.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology/biochemistry, a master’s in computer science from Cornell University, a graduate degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford Medical School, a graduate certificate in international security from the Stanford School of Engineering and a law degree from Loyola University Chicago.
Of the incumbents in the race, Springsteen joined the Town Council in 2009, while Potter and Patel first were elected in 2019.
Patel, who is medical director of the ophthalmology practice Nova Eye MD Inc. and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Georgetown University, has lived in Vienna since 2007.
Patel said she is seeking re-election to finish the zoning update, guide Vienna through the pandemic, guard taxpayer dollars, rejuvenate the local business district and protect personal property rights.
“The town of Vienna can benefit from progress and new businesses, but we need a long-term strategy for smart growth and a more efficient government that is responsive to citizen concerns,” she said.
Potter, a retired U.S. Navy officer and former corporate executive, has been a Vienna resident since 2004. He said he’s seeking another term to complete multiple projects the town has undertaken, including the zoning-code rewrite and construction of a new police station, and ensure the town’s economy recovers from the pandemic.
“I believe that continuity, knowledge and experience are going to be more important in this election than in previous elections because of magnitude of the initiatives involved and the long-term effects they will have on our community,” Potter said.
Springsteen, a Vienna resident since 1997, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, served as president of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department and spent eight years on the town’s Transportation Safety Commission before joining the Council. He retired last fall as a logistics manager with the Fairfax County Department of Vehicle Services.
Springsteen said he is running again because he still can contribute and make a difference in improving Vienna.
“I bring to the table my common-sense approach, responsiveness to citizen concerns and passion,” he said, adding that the new Council has been “pulling together as a great team” during the pandemic.