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December 31, 2014

Former Warrenton mayor George Fitch dies of cancer

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
George B. Fitch ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2005.
Former Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch died of cancer Tuesday, Dec. 30, at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

“The town is deeply saddened by the death yesterday of our former mayor, George Fitch,” Mayor Powell Duggan said in a brief statement Wednesday morning. “Please keep his wife Patricia and his family in your prayers. More information will be forthcoming over the next few days.”

Mr. Fitch, 66, retired in June after serving 16 years as mayor.

He previously earned notoriety as the Jamaican Bobsled Team founder during the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Mr. Fitch in 2005 launched an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

In town government, he spearheaded efforts to establish the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreational Facility and the Mosby Museum.

Mr. Fitch and his wife Patricia also invested extensively in Warrenton real estate, including two homes on Winchester Street and commercial properties on Main Street and Broadview Avenue. Most recently, they had worked on restoration of Paradise, the town’s oldest home at 158 Winchester St.

He was born into a missionary family in Canton, China, during the Chinese Revolution. Mr. Fitch was raised in the Far East and studied two years at the University of Singapore. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of Wooster, Ohio, and a master’s in international business from George Washington University.

Mr. and Mrs. Fitch in the late 1990s bought a small farm north of Warrenton. He quickly got involved in local affairs, launching an organization called Fauquier Taxpayers Against Waste. He campaigned against Warrenton’s proposed construction of a new Town Hall.

When J. Williard Lineweaver retired as mayor, Mr. Fitch won his first of four elections in 1998. He immediately set out to cut Warrenton’s real estate tax rate and municipal expenses.

At the same time, he led the effort that resulted in construction of the $24-million WARF, which continues to require an operating subsidy.

During his second term as major, Mr. Fitch attempted to parlay what he called “the Warrenton miracle” — low taxes and a high level of services — into statewide prominence. In June 2005, he lost the Republican primary election to Jerry Kilgore by 115,000 votes, 83 percent to 17 percent. Mark Warner (D) defeated Mr. Kilgore in the November election for governor.

Mr. Fitch later launched an effort to convert trash to energy at landfills in Fauquier and other communities. The economics of that effort proved too difficult, however.

In 2007, he almost died of a heart attack. Mr. Fitch made the WARF a central part of his rehabilitation and from there led weekly hikes to promote community fitness.

The town council in May voted to name the WARF for the retiring mayor.

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Mara_Seaforest · January 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm
By the way, "the Warrenton miracle" was not a phrase coined by George, although he proudly adopted it to help promote business and cultural opportunities here, and naturally, in his political campaign messages. Though it may have even older provenance, the term first came to my attention in 2005 when Robert Dean used it in an editorial for Virginia News Source, in which he cited the various ways in which George had reformed and revitalized our town's fiscal resources.
Sally Harmon Semple · January 4, 2015 at 5:34 pm
What a tasteless article. And how ironic -- George was an enthusiastic, creative, and relentless public servant who would not let such small mindedness tamper his enthusiasm for trying to improve the quality of life of the community and preserve our historic resources. Thank you George for your dedication and for your extraordinary service to our community.
terryinwarrenton · January 4, 2015 at 9:21 am
George was an extraordinary individual who will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. His legacy will live on in the Town of Warrenton for many years to come.
Tom LaHaye · January 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm
There are several threads of comments regarding Mayor Fitch's passing, and in one, he was acknowledged for his enduring support of the special needs community. I'll share a few more stories.

Early in the WARF development process, there was a fundraiser for the Fun for All Playground, and I discussed the playground with the Mayor. We walked to the end of the lobby, and I pointed to where the proposed playground would be built, across the creek, adjacent to the soccer fields, suggesting that was not especially accessible. Mayor Fitch looked down and asked "What's wrong with that spot right there?", and that's where the playground was built.

The pool at the WARF was christened by the Special Olympics swim team, but it was unclear whether the team would be able to train at the WARF due to facility fees. When this matter was discussed with the mayor, he said "There has to be a way we can make an exception here!" It took a little while, but exceptions were made for the special needs community.

Thank you Mayor Fitch.
Pharway · January 3, 2015 at 5:29 pm
Pharway · January 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm
A good citizen who sought what he thought was best for the Town of Warrenton. He gave the term Public Servant a good name. Wish that the Town and our country in general would have more outstanding citizens/statements like George.
vanative · January 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm
Well said... Focus on all the good he did... Such digs are sad and have no place in such a story... Sad little site & not a legitimate news outlet... Grow some in 2015!
Mara_Seaforest · January 1, 2015 at 4:50 pm
Was it really necessary to get in the nasty dig about the WARF subsidy -- which, by the way, amounts to about $1 per paying user? Please.

George Fitch was a huge-hearted and visionary man. More than once, I have felt that Warrenton didn't deserve him.
Rover 530 · December 31, 2014 at 6:34 pm
George Fitch lived a full life filled with experiences and accomplishments that most of us would envy. I don't think he was finished with what he wanted to do. He was always positive and applied himself to projects with energy and resolve; nothing was impossible. Some thought he pushed too hard. The Warrenton-Fauquier community was lucky to have him as an activist and public servant. I was fortunate to know him and I will miss him.
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