While last week served as a time to herald the arrival of Leesburg’s new Town Council, for three outgoing council members it was a week of fond farewells. At the end of the year, the terms of Mayor David Butler, and council members Katie Sheldon Hammler and Bruce Gemmill will expire.
For Butler and Hammler, it will be the end of an era of sorts. Butler first joined the council in 2008, was re-elected in 2012, and early this year was appointed mayor by his colleagues to serve the remainder of former mayor Kristen Umstattd’s term this year. He was defeated in his bid for his first elected term as mayor by Kelly Burk. Hammler joined the council in 2004 and was re-elected twice before losing her bid for a fourth term in November. Both council members served as vice mayor during their council careers, and were active in various state boards and commissions, with Hammler most recently serving as president-elect of the Virginia Municipal League.
For Gemmill, the council career was far shorter. He was appointed this year to fill Butler’s unexpired council term. Gemmill chose not to toss his hat in the council race for an elected term, and has said he will not seek the interim council appointment in January to fill Burk’s unexpired council term, despite being asked by several council members to do so.
During last Tuesday’s council meeting, Butler shared some thoughts about his brief tenure as mayor.
“It’s been a blast being on council and especially being mayor,” he said. “Being mayor is a lot more work than you may think it is, but it’s also a lot more fun than you may think it is. It could easily be a full-time job.”
Butler also joked that he is now beginning to forward some emails to Burk, who will officially take up the mayor’s post Jan. 1.
His service to Leesburg began a decade ago with his appointment to the Planning Commission and, looking back, he says he was proud of what he and his colleagues achieved for the town.
“I leave feeling good about what we’ve been able to accomplish and satisfied we’ve served the residents of Leesburg as best as we could,” Butler said.
Gemmill was not able to attend his last council meeting in office because of an emergency, but participated by telephone. Of his 10-month council career, Gemmill said he appreciated the opportunity to serve and is proud of the work he was able to accomplish. He pointed to the Crescent Parke rezoning application, originally voted down in July but which he brought back for reconsideration in September.
“This was an actual opportunity to help to do something that makes a lasting impact in a different way by voting on Crescent Parke and being able to work out a better deal for that,” he said.
He said the discourse among council members during his tenure was largely positive, a tone he hopes will continue with the new administration.
While Hammler is saying goodbye for now, she is hoping to be back on the council dais sooner rather than later. Unlike Butler and Gemmill, Hammler is putting her name in for the interim council appointment and has also said she will run in the special election for Burk’s unexpired term. In addition to wanting to continue to serve the people of Leesburg, Hammler’s position on VML puts the town in the position of having the town take the top post in the organization for the first time in history. However, if she is not chosen for the interim seat, a new president-elect from another municipality will be appointed. She is expecting to submit, along with her application for the council seat, a letter of support from the VML executive committee.
Looking back on the 12 years she has served on the council, Hammler points to a multitude of accomplishments. Of what she is proudest of, she has numerous examples: being a part of the council that selected John Wells as Leesburg’s town manager, and the “exceptional succession planning” he instituted; voting to approve the Village at Leesburg mixed-use development and negotiating numerous proffers for the town, including the upfront construction of the River Creek Parkway interchange and money for projects at Ida Lee Park; and keeping the town tax rate low, especially during the recession.