Leesburg's new Town Council, which was sworn into office Thursday, is likely to put more emphasis on business and entertainment in the historic district, said Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd.
Umstattd said that because of the experience of the new council members, she expected them to focus on bringing together commerce and the arts in Leesburg. Susan B. Horne and Kathryn S. "Katie" Hammler served on the town's economic development commission and C. Kelly Burk on its architectural review board.
"You will see on the new council a lot of interest in enhancing events in the downtown," especially involving the private sector, Umstattd said. She cited the success of Leesburg's new Acoustic on the Green series of weekly outdoor concerts as a model for partnerships with Leesburg businesses. "We do need more entertainment in the downtown on weekends," she said.
Horne said she is particularly concerned about the future of the Barber & Ross Co. site at Catoctin Circle and Harrison Street. The window and door manufacturer, Leesburg's largest private-sector employer, plans to move to Winchester when its new plant is ready.
"That's a prime piece of land and an opportunity to redevelop it in a way that brings life downtown," said Horne, who supports a retail, residential and office complex on the site. She said she hoped to ensure that the new development was compatible with the surrounding area's architecture and natural environment, including a nearby stream.
Umstattd, Burk, Hammler and Horne were sworn into office Thursday at a ceremony on the Town Green. The oath was administered by Gary M. Clemens, clerk of the Loudoun County Circuit Court.
Afterward, the Town Council gathered for an organizational meeting to select a vice mayor. Umstattd nominated council member Fernando J. "Marty" Martinez, who has served on the council since 2002. He was approved by a vote of 6 to 0. Town Council member Robert J. "Bob" Zoldos was absent.
Burk, Hammler and Horne replace former council members J. Frank Buttery Jr. and David Barton Schmidt and Vice Mayor Mervin V. Jackson. Buttery and Schmidt did not seek reelection, and Jackson was defeated in the May 4 election. The replacement of men on the council with three women now puts women in a 5 to 2 majority, their highest proportion in recent memory.
"It's a great new opportunity for women to show their stuff, do some hard work and make some tough decisions," Horne said.
Umstattd, on the other hand, said she didn't expect a shift in perspective resulting from the change in the Town Council's gender composition. "When you're at the local level, you're dealing with nuts and bolts of such fundamental issues that's there is no difference in how men and women view them," she said, noting that the town staff already includes several department directors who are women.
One of the most immediate priorities for the council is selecting a new town manager. Town Manager Robert S. Noe Jr. plans to retire at the end of September, and Leesburg officials hope to have a replacement before then. On Tuesday night, the Town Council, including its members-elect, met in closed session to discuss the applicants.
"We've tried to make this process very open," Umstattd said. "Any council member who will be dealing with the new town manager has an equal role in access."
Burk said the selection process has been similar to ones she participated in as president of the Loudoun Education Association when the group, which represents county educators, hired its department directors. "It's a time-consuming process, but it has to be if you're going to get the right candidates together," Burk said, noting that she considers the council on track to meet its deadline.
Staff writer Jason Ukman contributed to this report.
New Town Council members Susan B. Horne, from left, Kathryn S. "Katie" Hammler and C. Kelly Burk began working with Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, right, and other members last week.