Change is coming to the center seat of the Leesburg Town Council chambers dais—for the first time in more than a decade.
Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, fresh off her victory last week in the Leesburg District supervisors’ race, is preparing for a career change for the first time in 23 years.
Umstattd was first elected to the Town Council in 1992 and won election as mayor 10 years later. Her 13-year tenure at Leesburg’s helm puts her as the third longest-serving mayor in town history, behind only George Head (1870-1885) and Charles F. Harrison, who served two terms as mayor—from 1913 to 1917 and again from 1923 to 1934. She is by far Leesburg’s longest-serving female mayor, with Mary Ann Newman (1976-1978) and B.J. Webb (2000-2002) serving one two-year term each. Umstattd is the 47th mayor in town history.
Councilman Marty Martinez’s first year on the council also coincided with Umstattd’s first year as mayor. As he and other council members look to the near future of having to appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Umstattd’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2016, he said he admires the job Umstattd has done over the years.
“She has to work with six different personalities and moving the town forward, which she’s done a wonderful job of,” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword in that I am really excited and happy for her, but on the flip side what are we going to do now?”
The council has 45 days from the date Umstattd resigns to appoint a new mayor. Umstattd indicated this week that she plans to submit her resignation letter at the end of December. Her term as Leesburg District supervisor begins Jan. 1. Vice Mayor Kelly Burk will serve as acting mayor until the appointment is made. If the council members fail to act within the 45-day window, an appointment would be made by the Loudoun County Circuit Court.
“It’s a double-edged sword in that I am really excited and happy for her, but on the flip side what are we going to do now?”
—Marty Martinez, Leesburg Town Council
According to a memo written by Town Attorney Barbara Notar, the mayoral seat could be filled one of three ways: by council appointment, Circuit Court appointment or by special election, depending on who is tapped to fill Umstattd’s seat.
Should a current sitting member of the council be appointed mayor they would inherit Umstattd’s term—meaning those council members whose terms end in 2018 (Burk, Marty Martinez and Suzanne Fox) would see their current council terms shortened by two years. The terms of council members David Butler, Katie Sheldon Hammler and Tom Dunn expire on Dec. 31, 2016. However, should they choose to run for the mayor’s seat, they would be gunning for two-year terms instead of four years.
Complicating matters, if a current member of the council is appointed mayor, there will be a need to fill the resulting vacant council seat. If a council member whose term expires in 2016 is appointed mayor, no special election would be needed because of the term expiration’s proximity to the general election. However, if a council member whose term is up in 2018 is appointed mayor, a special election will be required.
For his part, Martinez said he’d like to see Burk take the mayor’s seat. But most of all, he wants to make sure the appointment doesn’t become a “political football” to set the stage for the 2016 council races.
Contact Kara Clark Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.