The Prince William Parkway, the 14-mile road that connects the east and west ends of the county in a local initiative spearheaded by outgoing Board of County Supervisors Chairman Kathleen K. Seefeldt (D), will be designated the Kathleen K. Seefeldt Parkway.
That's the lasting tribute her seven colleagues on the board bestowed on the six-term veteran on her last day as chairman in an intimate ceremony of heartfelt speeches and accolades, commemorative plaques, snapshots, roses and tears.
It was a fitting sendoff for Seefeldt, a fixture in Northern Virginia politics who helped secure millions in state and federal money for local road projects--and is widely respected in the region's transportation planning community.
The four-lane, $120 million parkway, also known as Route 3000, stretches from Interstate 95 to the Manassas city limits. It was paved by county workers and paid for by county taxpayers.
Prince William's elected officials, with Seefeldt at the helm, saw the need for a road to connect the county's east and west ends. The first sections opened in 1994. A bypass around Route 234 now under construction will link with the parkway and take drivers around Manassas, eventually linking Interstates 95 and 66.
Seefeldt's last meeting as the board's elected chairman capped a 24-year career in local politics that started with her election as Occoquan District supervisor in 1976. She was elected chairman in 1991.
Hours after yesterday's meeting, Republican Sean Connaughton was sworn in as chairman at a ceremony at the McCoart County Complex, having upset Seefeldt's bid for a seventh term by fewer than 700 votes in the Nov. 2 election.
Like the neighboring Fairfax County Parkway, designated the John F. Herrity Parkway to honor the former chairman of that county's board, the Seefeldt Parkway will not be renamed for her but rather designated with multiple signs. A renaming would complicate matters for businesses and drivers and require changes to maps.
"The board wants to recognize a really important figure, but they don't want to disrupt driving patterns," said Deputy County Executive Craig S. Gerhart. Supervisors said they will seek approval for the change from the General Assembly because the state will own the new segments of the parkway that are under construction in the county's west end.
Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville), calling Seefeldt the builder of the "modern economy in Prince William County," read the parkway proclamation: "Whereas, the Honorable Kathleen K. Seefeldt built the modern economy in Prince William County . . . and the entire transportation network in Northern Virginia was upgraded with over $1.6 billion in regional improvements and over $185 million in Prince William County voter-approved bonds . . . the Board of Supervisors hereby designates the Prince William County Parkway the Kathleen K. Seefeldt Parkway."
Yesterday's board meeting started as business as usual--a work session on new construction standards, commendations for the Division 6 winning Hylton High School varsity football team, a report on reconstruction of the Springfield Interchange and a rosy report from the county's economic development chief. Seefeldt was characteristically engaged. The audience of staff, residents and others with business before the board numbered about 25, no larger than usual.
Then the tributes began. The four mayors of Dumfries, Quantico, Haymarket and Occoquan lined up at the public lectern to thank the 64-year-old chairman for not forgetting their small communities.
"Thanks for your leadership in helping us all improve the quality of life," Dumfries Mayor Chris Brown said, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues. Then the mayors took turns hugging the departing chairman and posing for photos with her.
She already was tearing up when Wilbourn announced the parkway resolution. Then the supervisors stepped down from their seats and unwrapped a large, thin package--a green street sign that read, "Kathleen K. Seefeldt Parkway."
They placed a bouquet of red roses in her arms and lined up to hug her, one by one.
After a photo with the board, Seefeldt went back to her seat and in her soft-spoken voice, thanked her family, the county staff and Prince William voters for returning her to office six times. She recalled that when she moved with her family to Lake Ridge nearly 30 years ago, Old Bridge Road was built of gravel and twisting Davis Ford Road was the only route to Manassas. And, perhaps explaining her interest in roads and transportation, Seefeldt recalled her Minnesota childhood as the daughter of an engineer who built roads and bridges and after church on Sundays used to take his family to view his latest projects.
"He was very proud of what he did, and hopefully he is aware of the some of the work I've been able to do here," she said. Then the board finished its business, dispersed, and an era in Prince William politics was over.
CAPTION: Kathleen K. Seefeldt was called the builder of the "modern economy in Prince William County."