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Longtime Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross will retire, opting out of next election

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross (courtesy Office of Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross)

Longtime Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross will not run for reelection next year.

The 27-year Board of Supervisors veteran announced this morning that she will officially retire when her term is up on Dec. 31, 2023, meaning Gross will remain in office for another full year.

“This was a difficult decision, but it’s the right time,” Gross said. “…There’s still a year left. I will be here and continuing to do the same things I’ve been doing the last 27 years, but it is time.”

Gross told FFXnow last week that she would announce her plans for the 2023 elections one way or another this month.

First elected in 1995 to represent the Mason District, which encompasses Annandale, Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Lincolnia down to I-95 in Springfield, Gross won her seventh and final term in 2019 with nearly 64% of the vote.

She’s been a long-time advocate of expanding public transportation, affordable housing, and diversity in the county.

Even back in 1999, when she was running for her first reelection bid, she defended the increasing diversity and changing demographics in Fairfax County.

“I am troubled by the amount of animosity by some in the community about ‘those people,'” Gross told The Washington Post 23 years ago. “One of the things I hear at civic association meetings is a concern that folks who are moving in don’t have the same appreciation as those who are moving out. I’m not sure that’s the case.”

Gross has also served as the vice chairman of the board since 2009.

Early in her career, she worked on the staff of Idaho Sen. Frank Church, who very nearly won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976.

Board Chair Jeff McKay praised Gross for being a “leader” and leaving a lasting legacy.

I know that you’ve thought about this long and hard. You’ve been an outstanding and continue to be an outstanding vice chair to me as chairman and leader for the county, and as I said, there will be a lot of time for us to reflect on this in the months ahead, but I think the simplest thing to do today is just to share with you how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for the county and for the residents of Mason District and how proud I am of the legacy that you’ve built for others and the leadership attributes that you brought to the table in an always reasonable, well-organized, respectful, well-thought-out way, and so, very, very grateful for that.

Gross got a bit emotional when announcing her decision to retire, particularly after McKay’s comments.

“I practiced this in front of a mirror, and I wasn’t going to cry. I wasn’t going to get emotional. At some point, you get emotional,” she said.

Gross isn’t the only long-time supervisor to announce they won’t be seeking re-election in 2023. This past summer, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he would be stepping down at the end of his term as well.

Gross’s full announcement of her retirement is below.

When I first moved to the National Capital Region, The Byrds had a hit recording that emulated Ecclesiastes – To Everything There Is a Season (popularly known as Turn Turn Turn). To a young Hill staffer, the song was more a peace anthem than a life plan but, over time, I have come to learn, and accept that, indeed, there is a season and a “time for every purpose under heaven.” Some of the times noted in the song are especially appropriate for those who are privileged to be elected officials — a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to build up, a time to speak, and, sometimes, a time to keep silent.

In our positions as elected officials, we have additional seasons that require our attention and participation — snow season, budget season, campaign season, for example. Mindful that the campaign season is nearly upon us, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection in 2023 and I’ll retire when this term is completed on December 31, 2023. There is lots more to do, but there will always be lots more to do. I love my job. I appreciate and respect my colleagues and treasure all of Mason District and the residents who have placed their trust and confidence in me for the past 27 years. During the next year plus, my staff and I will endeavor to provide the same robust constituent services as we have done for nearly three decades. We’re so fortunate to be in Fairfax County, an outstanding place to live, work, play, worship and learn. I’m proud and grateful to have played a role in ensuring these opportunities for our diverse community, and I look forward to the continuing success of Fairfax County and the region.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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