New council holds first legislative meeting

New council holds first legislative meeting
Justin Wilson is sworn into office as mayor at a ceremony on Jan. 2. (Photo Credit: Cody Mello-Klein)

The new city council, which was sworn in on Jan. 2, gathered for its first legislative session of 2019 on Tuesday evening.

It was also the first time some of the new council members reported from the various city and regional boards and commissions they were officially appointed to at the city council installation.

Some of the most significant commission appointments were of Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Councilor Canek Aguirre to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which had lost longtime members Paul Smedberg and Tim Lovain with the council turnover. Aguirre said that at council’s next legislative meeting on Jan. 22, there will be a discussion about the three-month Metro shutdown Alexandria will face this summer.

With the start of the new year, council also appointed several non-councilor community members to boards, commissions and committees.

Perhaps the most eventful appointments were of three members to the planning commission. Mayor Justin Wilson said 18 applicants applied for the three vacancies and called the volume of applicants “a testament to the significant interest in what is one of the most important appointments that the council makes.”

Planning commissioners are appointed for four-year terms. The two incumbents who applied, David Brown and Stephen Koenig, were both unanimously reappointed by the council. The third successful candidate was John Goebel, who was appointed by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor John Chapman voting for a different applicant.

“I want to thank all the folks who applied for the planning commission. We are so fortunate that we have folks willing to give an incredible amount of volunteer time and service on our planning commission,” Wilson said.

During the city manager’s reports, Mark Jinks announced another new appointment: Gretchen Bulova as the permanent director of the Office of Historic Alexandria. Bulova has worked for the city for the past 20 years, serving as the acting director of OHA for the past year, and deputy director before then since 2015.

“We welcome Gretchen permanently to the job of OHA director, and we look forward to many good years with her stewardship of Alexandria’s history,” Jinks said.

Also at the meeting, council discussed a preview of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session and state budget and Alexandria’s 20-year strategic WasteSmart plan.

On Saturday, the new council will gather again for the first public hearing of 2019.