Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D) said Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year after nearly 30 years in office, guaranteeing a second open seat on the 10-member board nine months before the November elections.
Hyland, 78, cited his age and health as the main reasons that he decided not to pursue another term, saying he is losing the energy required for what are often long days representing the Mount Vernon district in the southern portion of the county.
“I’ve got a little bit of high blood pressure, I’ve had some heart issues, and, frankly, sleep apnea is an issue that I’m having checked because I’ve found myself at committee board meetings dozing several times, which I find unacceptable and embarrassing,” said Hyland, a lawyer and Air Force veteran.
“When you put it all together, it raises the questions: ‘Am I personally fit? And, second, am I fit as I need to be for my constituents, who have a right to have someone who doesn’t have limitations?’ ”
Hyland’s announcement follows that of Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), who said last month that he will retire in December after 24 years in office.
The board, which has seven Democratic and three Republican members, is grappling with a projected $100 million deficit for the coming fiscal year, driving concerns about higher taxes and school funding in Virginia’s largest jurisdiction.
One Republican and one Democrat have announced their intention to run for Frey’s seat. Hyland said he has heard of about a dozen potential candidates for his seat, although no one has formally declared.
“There are going to be some strong candidates, at least on the Democratic side,” Hyland said. “We have folks who have been very involved in this community.”
Few of those people, however, are as recognizable as Hyland.
Known for his fancy cane and penchant for puns, Hyland has been a dominant figure in his district since he won election in 1987 by just 26 votes.
“I have this cane so I can be more able,” he said on Monday, demonstrating his pun skills.
His accomplishments in office are varied. Early in his tenure, Hyland was instrumental in an effort to close the county-owned Interstate 95 landfill, now the site of the Covanta waste-to-energy plant. He also has helped keep the Mount Vernon hospital open and, last year, was a passionate advocate on the board for keeping an industrial landfill in Lorton on schedule to close at the end of 2018.
The decision to step aside “was one of the most difficult things in my life,” Hyland said. “Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”