After one of last winter's snowstorms, residents of the Arlington View area in South Arlington waited for the snowplows to come and clear their streets.
When it became clear they were not going to appear, lawyer William T. Newman and some neighbors cleared the block themselves.
Tuesday, Newman, 37, became the first black elected to the Arlington County Board since Reconstruction and the first candidate in decades to be originally elected from the south part of the county.
Newman and Democratic board Chairman Albert C. Eisenberg defeated Republican-backed independents Dorothy T. Grotos, who finished third, and Jane H. Bartlett, who finished fourth. As a result, Democrats occupy all five of the board's seats, which are elected on an at-large basis.
But some county residents and politicians wonder whether things would really change for South Arlington, which is often perceived as neglected, after Newman is sworn into his new $12,179-a-year position Jan. 1.
"The fact that I come from South Arlington is going to add something different," said Newman, who shied away from promising any specific services.
In the matter of snow removal, he has acknowledged that some streets in the north weren't plowed either. But there is a longstanding perception that the south is mistreated, he said. Previous boards have voted to build such major public facilities as the sewage treatment plant and the property yard in the south.
"I don't think it's a matter of actually promising to deliver something," Newman said. "I can be a voice to make sure the wishes and concerns of South Arlington are expressed."
Other County Board members say there is no inequality in the services provided the more upper-class north and the more middle-class south. "It's merely a perception," said board Vice Chairman John G. Milliken, a Democrat. "The one great advantage that Arlington has is that all five board members represent the entire community. Where we happen to live is incidental."
Whether the perception that the south is slighted is "justified or not is irrelevant," he said. "If you perceive that something is a problem it becomes a problem."
Though Newman repeatedly emphasized during the campaign that he was not running on his race, he said yesterday he hoped his candidacy would inspire other minorities, "making them more aware politically and anxious to participate in the whole political process."
Arlington has a growing Asian and Hispanic population but no elected officials from either group.
On major issues, leaders of both parties do not expect Newman to differ substantially from the current Democratic majority.
"His platform is very much the same one the board has had: to preserve neighborhoods, control development, keep taxes low, services good," said board member Ellen M. Bozman, a Democrat-backed independent.
Michael E. Brunner, the only Republican-backed independent on the board, chose not to run for reelection this year and repeated the Republican argument that debate will be lessened now that all five board members will be Democrats and share similar political views.
With Sheriff James A. Gondles Jr. defeating Republican-backed independent Ronald B. Hager in a much-publicized acrimonious campaign, Democrats will hold all the county's elective offices.
Some political observers from both parties say this week's loss finishes Grotos as far as elective politics goes. Grotos, a longtime fixture in Arlington politics, served on the board between 1976 and 1983. Her loss this week was her second defeat in a row, having lost a close race for treasurer four years ago.
"It's not so much losing but having served and running on that service and then losing," said a prominent Democratic activist who declined to be named.
"I'm sure they hope they killed me off for good," Grotos said yesterday, declining to say whether she would run agian.
Arlington Republicans said they took some pride in their showing, despite the election results.
"In some years past our candidates were laughed at," said Scott McGeary, chairman of the Arlington Republican Party. "Now we have credible candidates who ran respectable races."