How to explain Sharon G. Lee's reappearance on the Remington Town Council, after she lost her bid last year for reelection?
"You almost need one of those video screens, like John Madden does," said Lee, referring to what another elected official called the "fruit-basket" changes since the May 5, 1998, vote that turned out four incumbent council members after a bitter campaign.
In the intervening months, the town has gone through three mayors, three more council members, three police chiefs, one town administrator, two town clerk-treasurers and two town attorneys, not to mention a handful of part-time police officers.
Lee's reappointment to the council last month, several local officials said, was the latest evidence that some semblance of stability has returned to the government of this town of 504.
"This is a time of healing," said Lee, a vice president at the State Bank of Remington, who had served two full terms on the six-member council before returning recently. "I would not have agreed to come back if it wasn't."
Town Attorney Jeffrey Parker, former chairman of the Fauquier County Republican Party, put it another way: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." He was dismissed as town attorney last year before being asked back two months ago.
In recent months, other victims of what in some quarters has been called the "Monday Night Massacre" have returned as well.
The bloodletting occurred at the first meeting of the new council in May 1998: Parker was dismissed, the job of then-Town Administrator Phil Smith was done away with and then-Police Chief William Ellis was demoted by the new 4 to 2 majority, which had come to office on a ticket opposing annexation of a nearby subdivision.
As Parker's replacement, the four council members named J. Michael Sharman, a lawyer who had filed suit against the previous Town Council on their behalf. That suit, which figured heavily in the elections but eventually was withdrawn, alleged that Parker and two incumbent council members had conflicts of interest because of an alleged proposal to finance the purchase of a particular property, according to court records.
Under the guidance of then-Mayor E. Alan Anstine, the new members then voted to reimburse Sharman for the work he did on the lawsuit before his appointment. The council eventually approved the sale, and the town paid cash for the property.
Then Anstine came under fire because, in addition to being mayor, he was a Fauquier County sheriff's deputy. When a ruling came down in fall 1998 in nearby Prince William County, saying that sheriff's deputies could not hold elective office, Anstine resigned--both as mayor and from the Sheriff's Department--without waiting for the ruling to be applied specifically to him.
The council then voted for Kimberly S. Ellis, one of the new council members, to take Anstine's place. But early this year, a Fauquier County Circuit Court judge ruled that because Ellis, too, was a sheriff's deputy, she should not have been on the May ballot and could not serve on the council, much less as mayor.
Darrell Fletcher, another council member elected in 1998, agreed to be mayor only after Gerald Billingsley--who had once served as mayor himself--declined to take the job back.
During the shake-up at the mayor's position, the council gave Ellis's council seat to Kevin Bailey, a resident who frequently attended council meetings, and Fletcher's to Mary Harrington, a member of the local transportation committee.
Last month, Harrington resigned because she was moving to another county, and that's how Sharon Lee came to be on the council again. Even though she lost her 1998 bid for reelection, she was given high marks for coming to more meetings as a citizen than did some of the council members.
Supervisor David C. Mangum (R-Lee), whose magisterial district includes Remington, said the turnover isn't really unusual in a place with a small electorate and an even smaller pool of willing politicians. "It's such a small town," he said. "It's hard to have elections for these positions."
The job of town administrator has not been restored, but Phil Smith has. After his dismissal in 1998, he worked as a store manager at a farm cooperative. Late last June, he applied for job as deputy clerk-treasurer and was hired.
"I am happy to be back," Smith said. "I have a lot of friends in Remington, and they have been coming in to tell me how glad they are to see me here. I'm tickled to death with it."
Meanwhile, Cuno Andersen--the replacement police chief for William Ellis, who was Kimberly Ellis's father-in-law until her recent divorce--resigned last spring. Andersen has been replaced by Fauquier County Sheriff's Major James Waddell, who had served as Remington police chief before the recent round of shake-ups.
And finally, Parker was asked back after Sharman resigned during the spring to run for the Republican nomination for the House of Delegate's seat for Culpeper, losing badly to George E. Broman Jr.
One of the few non-moving parts is Billingsley, who is still one of two incumbents remaining from the 1996 council and still teaches civics at a Fairfax County high school. Asked whether he uses Remington as an example of democracy in action, he replied, "The subject hasn't come up."