Council Hopefuls Crowd the Ballot

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006

In some election years, the tiny town of Clifton has had trouble mustering enough candidates to fill the seats on its Town Council.

Not in 2006. Next month, nine residents will vie for the five spots, including two incumbents, two former members and five others who believe their voices need to be heard in representing the historic district -- less than one square mile -- in southern Fairfax County.

"You can tell from the mood of the electorate that there's something missing," said C.M. Rusnak Jr., a 23-year resident taking his first stab at elected office. "That something, we feel, is the lack of communication."

Rusnak and other candidates said that young families moving into the town of about 200 residents often don't have time to attend Town Council meetings and that their input on Clifton's future isn't heard -- or requested. Rusnak said he would launch a Web site and e-mail address to allow direct communication with the council. "If you can't come," Rusnak said, "I'll take your voice there and let it be heard."

Patrick J. Layden served numerous terms on the Town Council in the 1970s and 1980s, after moving to Clifton in 1969. He said he wanted to help the council make the transition from the older families who oversaw Clifton's growth and preservation as a historic district in 1984 to more recent arrivals.

Newer residents such as candidate Michael F. Anton are talking about traffic and making streets safer for families. Anton, who moved to Clifton four years ago, said some sidewalks are crumbling. Also, because so many vehicles travel through town on weekdays -- up to 10,000 by some estimates -- Anton said he thinks "there needs to be a slowing and calming of traffic."

Jeff E. Stein, who moved to Clifton in 2001, wants to improve the infrastructure. He has worked on the town's Architectural Review Board. Stein said that Clifton Creek Drive is eroding and that he planned to work with Fairfax County to improve services within the town.

Stein also said he hoped to work with planners to manage traffic and parking. Clifton Road and Chapel Road feed into the town and intersect in the center.

Marilyn D. Stoney said she was interested in trying to improve planning and funding. She suggested launching a nonprofit foundation, such as the one in Waterford in Loudoun County, to attract grants and other funds "to help the town maintain its historic character."

Stoney cited budget figures from recent years, saying the town projected total revenue for this year of slightly less than $103,000. "I'll work to ensure that Clifton remains a vibrant small town," Stoney said.

J. Brant Baber, first elected to the council in 2004, also cited the need to put the town "on a firm financial footing." He said the town was not running a deficit, unlike in previous years, because of increased community participation in projects such as playground improvements.

Baber said he wants to establish a full-time staff position for Clifton, to administer federal grants and other programs. The town has no full-time employees, and none of its elected officials are paid.

Thomas C. Peterson is running unopposed for mayor. He said he wants to "spearhead a new plan for the town, a road map of where we want to be in five years and beyond."

The other council candidates did not respond to e-mails and phone messages in time for this report.

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