Audrey Moore, an environmentalist who became chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and successfully fought for the preservation of several thousand acres of open land in rapidly growing Northern Virginia, died Dec. 12 at a Fairfax County retirement community home. She was 89.
The cause was advanced dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease, said a daughter-in-law, Kellye M. Moore.
Starting in 1972, Mrs. Moore spent 20 years on the county’s Board of Supervisors representing the Annandale area. The last four years of her tenure were as board chairwoman, and she used the position as she always had: to berate the excesses of growth, especially traffic congestion, as the region became an economic hub.
She had settled in Annandale in 1956 just as the area was experiencing its postwar suburban birth pangs, and she did not want to see the leafy rural charm turn into the crowded blight she had seen consume the wealthy New York suburbs where she had been raised.
“I want it to be built in balance, to be a comfortable place to live in,” she once told The Washington Post. “In New York, there is no balance. People there elbow their way to the front of lines, and that’s characteristic of places where the environment isn’t that good.”
Rapid development over the next several years in Fairfax County propelled her to a career as an activist and eventually as a lawmaker — an unlikely trajectory for a woman who had been dissuaded from a career in the law by her prosperous, conservative parents and from working outside the home by her husband.
She was a white-gloved young mother at the time with a budding interest in building and zoning, and she made a habit of dropping into the county planning office every week to ask questions.
“She just came in one day, and I wondered why such a pleasant lady was interested in details we dealt with day-to-day,” Rosser Payne, the county’s former chief planning official, told The Post years later. “She said she wanted to educate herself on the techniques of planning. We talked about rezoning applications, state codes for sewers, transportation, parks.”
As president of her local civic association in 1966, she became part of the battle to save Wakefield Park, a 230-acre patch of land surrounding Accotink Creek near the center of the county that was slated for development.
At the time, federal prosecutors had indicted 15 Fairfax County supervisors, bureaucrats and developers for allegedly accepting or offering bribes in exchange for zoning changes. Eight of the indicted were convicted. It was one of the greatest municipal scandals in the county’s history.
“Up to that point, I felt that I could put on my white gloves and behave like a lady arguing the facts,” she told The Post in 1987. “But I was really shocked, really amazed, to find that the board was looking after [their own] financial interests, not the interests of the long-term resident.”
Mrs. Moore launched a door-knocking campaign that led to Wakefield Park’s preservation. She also helped spearhead an $18 million referendum to expand parks countywide, leading to what is now a system of 427 parks on 23,000 acres that ring Fairfax County neighborhoods.
She often used harsh words like “crook” to describe the politicians who she felt abrogated their duties. Her abrasive language brought her a reputation as a gadfly — but an effective one, as she became part of the county’s slow-growth movement.
Her activism lifted her to elective office. She won the supervisor’s seat and became a no-nonsense presence on the male-dominated board whose wire-frame glasses, less-than-stylish wardrobe and sharp tongue masked her country-club upbringing.
A Democrat on a Republican-majority board, she argued that developers were still in control. In her New York accent, she accused GOP colleagues of “selling out” to developers, whom she called liars. She dubbed the Chamber of Commerce “The Land Speculation League.”
Her style made fast enemies.
Some of Mrs. Moore’s board colleagues would conspire to circumvent her on deals or else incite her into long tirades about the evils of developers. Sometimes derisive nicknames followed: “St. Audrey of Annandale,” “Mrs. No” and “The Sewer Lady.”
“We don’t accuse her of being a demagogue and we don’t accuse her of being unstable, so we don’t think she should be running around insulting the business community,” Philip M. Reilly, former president of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, told The Post in 1982. “Sometimes it seems she doesn’t know when to stop.”
She stuck in the game. “Everybody hates Audrey Moore but the voters” became a truism in county politics. And gradually, Mrs. Moore’s calls to protect the surrounding environment gained traction.
In 1982, she spearheaded a zoning change for the 41,000-acre Occoquan Basin in southwest Fairfax that restricted development to one house per every five acres.
The measure to protect the watershed from runoff pollution was challenged in Circuit Court, with the county attorney’s office initially showing little interest in defending the change.
Mrs. Moore rallied environmental and civic leaders to goad the county into taking the fight seriously, leading to a 1985 ruling on Fairfax’s behalf.
The decision “would not have happened without her,” former congressman Thomas M. Davis (R), then a Fairfax supervisor, said about Mrs. Moore at the time. “She spent years laying the foundation.”
The victory propelled Mrs. Moore toward her greatest political triumph, in 1987, when she beat incumbent John F. “Jack” Herrity (R) in an election for the chairman’s seat.
The two had been friends early in their careers. But the race was ugly.
Herrity, who helped lure large corporations to Fairfax as a champion of the county’s growth, said he had “absolutely no respect” for Mrs. Moore.
She trounced him by 21 points.
As chairwoman, Mrs. Moore softened her position, choosing to work to manage the county’s growth through investments in road improvements. But as the Washington region headed into a recession during the early 1990s, she was dogged by charges of wasteful spending and mismanagement, her increasing unpopularity causing fellow Democrats to distance themselves.
In 1991, she lost her reelection bid to Davis by 32 points.
“Tonight, perhaps my independence has caught up with me,” she said in a somber voice during her concession speech. “So be it. I wouldn’t trade that independence for one more day in office.”
Audrey Elizabeth Campbell was born Dec. 28, 1928, in Maracaibo, Venezuela, one of three daughters of a wealthy Canadian oil-drilling-equipment exporter and a U.S.-born mother who moved to Venezuela to become a nurse. She was 3 when the family moved to Larchmont, N.Y.
She initially attended Mount Holyoke College, the women’s college in South Hadley, Mass., but, according to a Post profile, her father made her transfer after she came home spouting progressive notions that he found akin to Communist subversion. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and intended to pursue law school.
Her parents declined to pay her tuition — “women didn’t do those things,” they told her — and she enrolled at Katharine Gibbs secretarial school in Manhattan. The daily commute by train from the Westchester suburbs had a deep impact on her later career: “I would sit on that train and look out at the apartments on West 125th Street and think that was terrible,” she told The Post.
She came to Washington in 1950 to work as an administrative assistant for a trademark specialist and lobbyist. In 1955, she married Samuel V. Moore, a management analyst for federal agencies. They were separated when he died in 1999.
Survivors include three sons, Douglas Moore of Annandale, Andrew Moore of Vienna, Va., and Robert Moore of Lake Ridge, Va.; two sisters; and four grandchildren.
After leaving county politics, Mrs. Moore eventually became active in her retirement community, Greenspring Village in Springfield, Va. — her favorite big-band composers providing a soundtrack to her final days.
In a 2005 oral history interview for the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, she said one of the proudest moments of her career came three years earlier when the county renamed the Wakefield Park recreation center in her honor.
“It was one of the nicest things that ever happened,” she said, noting that she had been against the recreation center when it was built in the mid-1970s. “I instead wanted them to buy more land.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Fairfax County park system has 230,00 acres. There are 23,000 acres of parkland in the county.
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