Retired General Appointed to Leesburg Council Seat

After a lengthy round of votes, Hugh Forsythe was selected tonight to serve on the Leesburg Town Council dais for most of 2017.

Forsythe was one of five finalists to fill the council seat—formerly held by Kelly Burk, who took over as mayor Jan. 1—until a special election is held in November. Jed Babbin, Gwen Pangle, Joshua Thiel, and Rusty Foster also were on the list.

Each candidate was asked to answer three questions in a presentation to the council that began Monday’s annual organizational meeting.

Hugh Forsythe is sworn in as a new Leesburg Town Council member by Tara Belote of the Town Manager’s Office.

In his presentation, Forsythe said “what you see is what you get” when it comes to him. A retired major general who spent 41 years in the U.S. Air Force, he continues to work as an operations controller for United Airlines. His career spans the commercial/civilian and military sectors in the aviation industry. He has also helped to plan the town’s annual Air Show. He is chairman of the board of directors of the Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers.

Forsythe said he has been approached by several people in his Rotary Club, as well as members at his church, Cornerstone Chapel, to re-enter public service.

“I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t sit and complain and moan; I’m the kind of guy that takes action,” he said in addressing the council. “I figured that rather than sitting around and complaining about the issues, I would get in there and do it myself.”

He cited transportation solutions and finding a better balance between residential and commercial development as his priorities.

Forsythe initially did not receive the four votes necessary for appointment. Both he and the other four candidates were all put forward for appointment in separate votes, but all votes deadlocked on 3-3 votes. Thiel was put forward for consideration twice, but both votes deadlocked.

The council ultimately voted to go into closed session to discuss the appointment. Both Councilmen Tom Dunn and Ken Reid voted against going into closed session. When the majority prevailed, Dunn said he would not participate in the closed session. Council members met in closed session for about 20 minutes. After emerging from closed session, Burk put forward another motion to appoint Forsythe and this time he was appointed unanimously.

In an earlier vote in the evening, council members had voted to leave it up to whomever was appointed as to whether they wanted to begin their service immediately or wait until the next meeting in two weeks. Forsythe chose to begin serving immediately and was sworn in by Tara Belote of the Town Manager’s Office.

The council also voted hold the special election on Nov. 7, the same day as the General Election. That winner will fill the remainder of Burk’s council term, which expires Dec. 31, 2018. In an interview last week, Forsythe said he was unsure whether he would run in the special election.