CANDIDATE Q&A: Lindy Hockenberry
Hockenberry is a former Vice Mayor and currently serves on the Falls Church Planning Commission. She is a retired teacher from the Falls Church City Public Schools, where she taught for 40 years.
I am originally from Nassau, NY, and grew up on Route 20 between Albany and Pittsfield, MA. My degrees are from Spalding University in Louisville, KY, and George Mason University. I received both as a working mom with two children. I started teaching at TJ in 1969 and have been an active part of this community ever since. My children, Tim and Beth, both graduated from GMHS and I have six wonderful grandchildren ages nine to 17.
My campaign slogan is “Always there for our City and our kids” and that just about says it all about my involvement in our City of Falls Church. I taught middle school for 31 years and substituted since I retired in 2000. I’m a perpetual “cheerleader” at GMHS sporting events as well as at theatrical productions and concerts. Within the City, I attend almost everything going on. I loyally support local businesses. My eight years on City Council brought everything together for me. I am always working hard for our City and our citizens.
1. Why do you want to be on City Council?
The main reason for wanting to serve again on City Council is my love and devotion to the City of Falls Church and to our outstanding school system that I’ve been a part of for 40 years. I was offered many leadership opportunities in the decision-making processes shaping the future of our schools. This sense that I could make a difference in what I really cared about became crucial in my community involvement. I became the spokesperson for the Education Association for some 20 years and was instrumental in negotiating salary and benefits so important to all school employees.
When I retired, I wanted to continue serving on City Council helping build the financial base that could support all City services including schools and thereby ensuring our long-term sustainability as an independent City. I was very proud to serve our City for eight years and continue to do so on the Planning Commission. Another reason is the role that my dad, Lindy Reeves, played in my life. He became a leader as a Town Justice and then as a Town Supervisor. He was much respected and proved that with hard work, cooperation with others, and a positive attitude that a lot can be accomplished. I hope to continue his legacy.
2. What has City government done well in the last 10 years? What has it done poorly?
I was elected to City Council in 2000 and served eight years. In years 2000-2006, with the election of new members, the Council seemed to have a new sense of energy and urgency planning for the sustainability of our City. Empty lots and under-performing properties were developed into top producing sites adding new net revenues of more than $2.5 million a year and enhancing the vitality of the West Broad St. corridor. These major new buildings were the first developed in over 30 years – that’s far too long a time. We also supported the first public/private partnership building Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School – the first new school in 40 years.
Our City gained new affordable housing units. Open space and playing fields made great gains – the renovation of the football field, TJ’s field, the Hamlett/Rees site with additional land was finally purchased after 30 years on the wish list. More space was added to the West End Park and to other parks making it the greatest increase in years in preserving open space. All of this represents an enormous amount of progress in less than 10 years. Our City has become much stronger. My view is positive, but I understand that others may not agree. I believe that we must continue to work together for the long-term sustainability of our City and improving our necessary tax base.
3. If you could determine the physical nature of Falls Church, what would the City look like in 20 years in terms of buildings, green space, transportation, and other physical aspects?
I would like to frame my answer within the context of the Council Vision Statement of what our City might be in 2025 found on the City’s website. First and most important, our City and our school system will still be independent. Our neighborhoods will still be the wonderful community enclaves that they are now, but will be better connected with pedestrian walkways and alternative forms of transportation. There will be vital businesses, restaurants, retail and residential consolidation found in our central downtown areas as well as our West End Triangle and in the Seven Corner section. There will be more usable open space and parks including a town square located in our downtown.
There will be a new George Mason High School built vertically to better use the land and to provide for playing fields and other recreation uses with a swimming pool. Our City will be a center for all types of cultural and arts activities. We will continue to celebrate diversity with community celebrations as well as having accessible housing so that people of all means can afford to live here. We will be among the leaders in environment endeavors and development throughout all city programs. The City of Falls Church will be the place where people will still want to live, work and to raise their families.
4. Aside from the physical nature of the City, what should change and what should remain the same?
The most important thing that should not change is the feeling that we are all part of a unique and special place called the City of Falls Church. I hope that we will still be reminded of why we are an independent City and of the history of our founding by courageous and visionary people. I hope there will still be that spirit of the “Falls Church Way” of having the opportunities to participate in our City at every level – to have our opinions and have that chance to make a difference in the place we call home. I hope that we will remain friendly and open to all. I hope that we can remember fondly our past, but will have both the vision and courage to make some changes that will lead us into the future.
5. How would you propose to balance the City budget? Please identify any specific spending cuts or revenue increases you would suggest.
Our City’s budget is always a concern and will be more so until the economy improves. Through the budget process, we as a City are able to express our support for those things that we value and how we want our City to be. I commend the recent report of the long-term financial group to the Council, and I think it will be a valuable tool to use in our present and future budgets. The recent consolidation of the school/city communication departments has been a positive step forward in joint budget considerations and I encourage seeking more ways to join the two. Both the city and the schools need to be analyzing every program at all levels including personnel, seeking consolidation and cost efficiencies. Looking for cost reductions on both sides will be crucial.
We have to seek more economic development if we are to survive as a city – retention and new business growth are essential. Our City has to be actively and aggressively out there marketing our City as a special place to have business and as a destination for social activities. We must continue developing the types of 21st century buildings that will attract business while still retaining properties that have lower lease rates appealing to smaller companies. We would benefit having staff whose sole purpose would be seeking grant money. Our tax base and revenues have to become much broader providing a much-needed pressure valve for our residential home owners.
6. When the City’s budget situation improves to allow capital improvement projects, which project would be your top priority?
As a member of the Planning Commission that is responsible for recommending to City Council expenditures and future capital projects, my first priorities would be in investing in much needed public parking. Well planned parking facilities would be essential for future development in our downtown areas. I feel that any investment in transportation would be the best for our City and region. The next choice would be to continue the development plans for the Hamlett/Rees Park and West End Park that have already been approved and have not gone forward for lack of funding. Our library needs must be considered with space to expand. Storm water management remains extremely important in our City and surrounding areas. Many improvements have been identified, but not implemented due to funding. In this case, we may need to look at the whole storm water issue and address the future with a separate utility to solve the many problems. We also have to be careful that the care and maintenance of our City’s facilities and infrastructure are met in an ongoing program. Of course, our school facilities needs are looming in the future. The Capital Improvement Fund has been really put on hold due to the budget. The good news is that there will be progress made and citizens will see many projects underway that have been funded through federal grants matched with local funding. Again, this is another reason for having staff whose only job would be to seek grants.
7. What is your position on the proposed affordable housing project, “The Wilden”?
I am very much in favor of the Wilden project and the new commercial office building that is to be built. The revenue from the new commercial building will balance out the yearly payment of the $2 million bond from the City. I believe that we do need affordable senior housing in our City. The housing at Winter Hill is increasingly not providing ADA accessibility for our seniors aging in place so the need is there. The money that was granted in the grueling state competition represents about half of the $17 million cost of the project – an amazing award. The two new buildings will bring interest and future development of the entire South Maple/South Washington corridor.
8. What was your position on moving City Council and School Board elections from May to November?
I did not take a public position on the change in election mainly because I am fine with either time. I was concerned that the debate became so heated and caused such division in our community. All that being said, I hope the change will garner more public participation in the election process. I firmly believe that voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility of every citizen. I also hope to impress upon everyone that voting in a local election gives you a far greater voice in your immediate world than in any other election. I am often surprised and dismayed when people only vote at the Federal level. Every chance to vote should be eagerly accepted as an opportunity to participate in our democratic society.
9. What changes, if any, should the City make regarding its water system following the recent litigation with Fairfax County Water Authority?
I remain hopeful that the courts will rule in our favor for the right to take a fair rate of return from our water system as is done in so many other jurisdictions. If that occurs, we must continue to run our high-quality system with the highest standards as we always have with fair rates for all. If this does not occur, serious choices may have to be considered.
10. Are there any practices or programs you have seen in other communities – nearby or far away – that should be adopted by the City of Falls Church?
All in all, I feel that the City is on the right track, always trying to improve while keeping the future well in mind with all choices made. We have moved energetically into the 21st century with new development, programs and necessary changes, i.e.: the choice to outsource our solid waste program, a choice that was considered before, but is far more favorable now. We have an outstanding and dedicated staff working for us. Our cooperation between the City and the School Board is very good.
Some of the surrounding areas do better in some things, especially in better financial times, such as Fairfax and Arlington with their dedicated monies for open space and affordable housing. In better times, our new budgeting should include dedicated tax money for both and for improving our storm water management. Because of their size, both of those jurisdictions also have more parks and recreation programs with larger facilities including swimming pools. I love our recreational programs and Community Center – we do a great job, but we are always restricted by facility size. I considered it a great failure that we didn’t expand our Community Center fully when the public and City Council were given the renovation opportunities in the late 1990s. Over all, I am very proud of our City, as should our citizens, with the services and all that is part of our wonderful City of Falls Church.
By Falls Church Times Staff
March 30, 2010