The Washington Post

Purcellville’s four-term mayor says he won’t seek reelection

After serving four terms as mayor of Purcellville, Robert W. Lazaro Jr. announced Monday that he would not seek reelection in the town’s May election, citing his belief in the importance of term limits.

“I have come to the personal conclusion that term limits are necessary in government and, as a leader, I have the obligation to lead by example,” Lazaro said in a statement.

Lazaro, who was first elected to lead the historic western Loudoun County town in 2006, told The Washington Post that partisan gridlock in Richmond and Washington prompted him to consider leaving office.

“Term limits are so important. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but they save our country,” Lazaro said. “People are more interested in serving their party than their community or their country . . . so I said, ‘I’m going to set an example.’ Eight years is enough; let’s give the voters an opportunity to make a decision on who is next.”

The self-described lifelong Republican has received praise and criticism from across the political spectrum during his years in office. Conservationists have accused him of encouraging too much commercial development in Purcellville. Gun rights advocates have assailed his decision to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national coalition backed by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Lazaro has also drawn attention for his endorsements of both Republican and Democratic candidates in recent state and local elections.

Lazaro said those choices reflect his belief that a governing body “should represent everyone, not just the loud.”

He said he supported former Republican Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell “because while I didn’t agree with him on everything, I think he had a plan and a focus on making our state better.”

Lazaro said he endorsed Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November for the same reason. “I felt that he had an agenda that would move the state forward,” Lazaro said. “In the end, the district is more important than the party, and I wish more people would run for elected offices who feel that way.”

In his statement Monday, Lazaro cited numerous accomplishments during his four terms, including protecting more property through conservation easement than any other town in Virginia; establishing family-friendly community events; investing in transportation infrastructure and sidewalks; encouraging a business community in which more than 90 percent of business licenses are held by local, non-chain businesses; and maintaining a strong fiscal record as a community with the highest possible bond rating.

“We have much to do in the next several months to move our town forward, and I look forward to working with you to achieve those results,” Lazaro said in the statement. “Purcellville is a great place to live, work and raise a family, and I thank you for the honor you have afforded me.”

Lazaro ended his announcement with a cryptic hint about his future plans — “All I can say is, stay tuned” — but he added in a subsequent interview that he would “absolutely” consider running for another political office.

“Just because I am no longer serving as mayor doesn’t mean I don’t have an interest in public service, whether it’s voluntary or elected in the future,” he said. “I’m not going to play that coy game . . . yes, if there was an opportunity and I felt I could make a positive difference and be able to work with people on both sides of the aisle, sure, I would consider it.”

Caitlin Gibson is a feature writer at The Washington Post.

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