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May 17, 2020 · OPINION

Three strong candidates running for town council

By Yakir Lubowsky

One of the casualties of the virus pandemic is our lost community focus on the upcoming town council elections.

That is especially unfortunate because the virus is bringing a boatload of trouble for Warrenton, and we have never needed smarter, better, leadership than right now.

The elections are Tuesday. Three of the five wards have contested races, and fortunately there is a clearly superior candidate in each of those.

For those who’ve not already voted absentee, I hope to persuade you to go out on Tuesday and support these three candidates:

In the Ward 5: Michele Ferri is the clearly better choice.

Michele is an experienced architect with years of design work for municipalities (her firm designed our town fire station). She reads city codes and advises clients on how to adapt. I served with her for two years on the Warrenton Architectural Review Board, where she was diligent, respectful, ever-prepared, and always showed up. She brings a great toolbox to the council (where a previous architect provided us with 16 years of highly valuable skills).

She has also wisely made a safe and livable Warrenton her key issues. Just from reading this publication, we see that crime is up over the past few years (there’s now a security cam on a crane in the Walmart parking lot!). This in a time when the current town council dithered over hiring a new police chief, and did not make crime a priority. Michele’s opposition to the emerging Comprehensive Plan — characterizing it as the road to suburbia — is also a thoughtful position. That plan will require much more thought.

In Ward 2: Bill Semple is the clearly better choice.

With a truly unique sweep of experiences and skills, Bill brings another singular and desperately needed toolbox to council. A Navy veteran, inventor, former CFO and successful entrepreneur, no one in this year’s group of candidates offers the sharp financial insights that Bill has. Please, look at his crystal clear assessment of the town budget (on his website). We are heading into potentially devastating economic conditions; with so many dark storefronts in town already, the national pandemic deals a hard local blow (e.g., the Gordmans store that just opened is likely to close, as their parent company is now insolvent).

We need Bill’s hard edged finance skills and his persistent courage. (Bill and his equally capable wife, Sally, brought the lawsuit — just heard by Virginia’s Supreme Court — that demonstrated clearly how the town had violated not only Virginia law, but its own ordinances.) Without powerful, energetic, and creative thinking, we will not overcome our hard problems.

In Ward 1, Ali Zarabi is the clearly better choice.

Arguably no one in Warrenton has a firmer grip than Ali on land use, planning and zoning, the issues that Mayor Carter Nevill has rightly characterized as the town’s most complex and thorny. Ali has spent over 20 years on the town planning commission, where he is known for his hard work, careful preparation, active participation, and unfailing courtesy to all. For four years, I sat next to Ali at the planning commission and marveled at his unique approach to problem solving. He is collaborative but guided always by a vision of Warrenton as an adaptive community that remains true to its precious small town roots.

As a 25-year small business owner on Main Street, he also understands personally the needs of the commercial community and argues always for balancing our better angels of preservation with the realities of businesses needing to be actually profitable to stay open.

There is not one member of town council today knowledgeable in planning and land use. With a strong professional town staff, the council needs at least one member to push back when needed. The town council makes policy and the town staff executes it; someone needs to navigate the difference. That is Ali’s unique toolbox. For this reason, and others, former Mayor Powell Duggan has endorsed Ali in this election.

The remarkable lady and two gentlemen I describe above have courage, civic dedication and uniquely valuable skills. With their “civic superpowers”, they come like a team from the Avengers… to our rescue at this dangerous moment.

The town would be fortunate to have any of them in leadership.

Please go out and elect them all.
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