Wash­ing­ton re-elects four Coun­cil mem­bers, wel­comes new face to Town Hall

In­com­ing Mayor Catlin and Trea­surer Swift slide into of­fice

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By JoHn Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

There was lit­tle sus­pense in Town of Wash­ing­ton elec­tions on Tues­day, given Fred­eric F. “Fred” Catlin ran un­op­posed to fill the seat of out­go­ing Mayor John Fox Sul­li­van, although vot­ers were tasked with choos­ing five Town Coun­cil mem­bers from a slate of seven can­di­dates.

The new Coun­cil will con­sist of re­turn­ing mem­bers Mary Ann Kuhn who re­ceived 64 votes, Pa­trick O’Con­nell with 59, Katharine Weld “Kat” Leggett 49, Bradley C. Sch­nei­der, Jr., 47, and new­comer Joseph J. Whited, whose 40 votes barely se­cured the last re­main­ing seat in Town Hall.

Com­ing up on the short end with 37 votes was J.R. “Jerry” Goebel, who was ap­pointed to the Coun­cil in 2001 and served as the town’s Trea­surer for 16 years; while Henry R. “Hank” Gor­fein tal­lied the sup­port of 31 vot­ers. There were 6 write-in votes.

The un­op­posed Catlin re­ceived the sup­port of 56 vot­ers, and there were an­other 15 write-ins for mayor; and Gail K. Swift, the lone can­di­date for Trea­surer, gar­nered 69 votes, with 4 write-ins.

Whited, the new face on the Coun­cil, is a 39-year-old con­sul­tant with the De­part­ment of De­fense. He is a Navy com­bat vet­eran who de­ployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has served as a se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer with the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency. A for­mer U.S. con­gres­sional staffer, he has lived in the town since 2013.

The big­gest out­come of Tues­day’s elec­tion, how­ever, will be the of­fi­cial pass­ing of the ba­ton on Jan. 1, 2019 by Mayor Sul­li­van — who opted not to seek a third term in of­fice — to Catlin, who has lived in Wash­ing­ton for five years and has served as Chair of the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and on Town Coun­cil dur­ing that time.

Work­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion field for forty years, Catlin owns and teaches at the Albe­marle Montes­sori Chil­dren’s Com­mu­nity, serv­ing as a head of school for half that time. Ad­di­tion­ally, he has chaired a statewide Montes­sori ed­u­ca­tors’ as­so­ci­a­tion and served on over fifty non­profit boards.

Catlin refers to the his­toric town he will now lead as a “na­tional trea­sure.”

“I have the strate­gic vi­sion . . . to help the town sus­tain its unique char­ac­ter among Amer­i­can small towns, em­brac­ing its his­tory while help­ing to guide a thought­ful plan for its fu­ture,” Catlin told this news­pa­per. “Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton should con­tinue to be a place where peo­ple want to visit and live.”

The in­com­ing mayor guided and was a pri­mary author of the town’s most re­cent com­pre­hen­sive plan, and pro­posed the cre­ation of task forces that have stud­ied for the past six months as­pects of Wash­ing­ton’s fu­ture.

“I be­lieve that the Town of Wash­ing­ton is at a unique point in its his­tory — one in which we could seize on op­por­tu­ni­ties that could ben­e­fit the town, sus­tain its unique na­ture, and im­prove the qual­ity of life for res­i­dents of the town and Rap­pa­han­nock County,” he said. “I hope to ac­com­plish a con­sen­sus among the town’s cit­i­zens that would bal­ance grad­ual growth with im­proved ameni­ties for towns­peo­ple — all while pre­serv­ing the unique qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter of the town.

Tar­geted ar­eas by Catlin in­clude in­fra­struc­ture, busi­ness and tourism de­vel­op­ment, hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and fis­cal man­age­ment.

In a re­cent in­ter­view, out­go­ing Mayor Sul­li­van ac­knowl­edged that it’s “time for a change, both for me and the town.”

“I’ve had a good run,” he said, point­ing out the de­ci­sion not to seek re­elec­tion did “not come eas­ily and in­deed has evolved over re­cent months.”

Sul­li­van de­scribed be­ing mayor “the cap­stone” of his 40-plus year ca­reer in na­tional me­dia, much of it spent as a mag­a­zine pub­lisher in the big Wash­ing­ton. Be­sides his eight years in the town’s top lead­er­ship po­si­tion, he served 10 years to­tal on the Coun­cil, and two years on the Ar­chi­tec­tural Re­view Board.

His two terms as mayor weren’t al­ways smooth sail­ing.

“I like to think there is a comity and a ci­vil­ity in our town that is lack­ing in our world at large, and the county for that mat­ter,” he said, de­scrib­ing a fine line that sep­a­rates the town and Rap­pa­han­nock County.

In­deed, dur­ing the town’s few but sig­nif­i­cant lit­i­ga­tion cases the mayor’s most out­spo­ken crit­ics weren’t even his con­stituents.

“I get ter­ri­bly frus­trated by the in­ternecine war­fare of [cer­tain] peo­ple,” he said. “They don’t have a sense of the com­mon good. I’m a be­liever in the com­mon good. So many peo­ple seem to be liv­ing in their own lit­tle bub­ble — the men­tal­ity that if some­thing good hap­pens to the other guy it’s go­ing to hurt them. It’s a zero-sum game. And I be­lieve just the op­po­site.”

The town re­al­ized numer­ous ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing Sul­li­van’s decade of pub­lic ser­vice, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a state of the art waste­water sys­tem; sta­bi­liz­ing the town’s fi­nances through cost con­trols, sewer and wa­ter fees, meals and lodg­ing rev­enue, the sale of Avon Hall; de­vel­op­ing a new Com­pre­hen­sive Plan with de­mand­ing goals; and beau­ti­fy­ing the cen­ter of a vil­lage that is cher­ished by vis­i­tors from around the world.

The mayor said the town will “for­ever” be his and his wife Bev­erly’s home. “We’re not go­ing any­where,” Sul­li­van said. “We’re not go­ing to dis­ap­pear.”

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MC­CASLIN

Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date Leslie Cock­burn ar­rives at her Huntly cam­paign of­fice Tues­day morn­ing. Also on on Elec­tion Day, Rap­pa­han­nock County Regis­trar Kim McKier­nan (right) and As­sis­tant Regis­trar Sheran Rigg check sev­eral ab­sen­tee bal­lots re­ceived at the county’s elec­tion of­fice.

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