The woman who oversaw ArtsFairfax’s transformation from an events programmer into the top advocate for Fairfax County’s arts and culture community will soon step down as leader of the nonprofit.
Linda Sullivan announced her plan to retire after 14 years as president and CEO on Oct. 26 at the 2023 ArtsFairfax Awards, an annual celebration and fundraiser that she established to honor notable local artists, arts and cultural organizations and their supporters.
At the awards ceremony, which was held at Capital One Hall in Tysons and raised $175,000, Sullivan said she was “very proud” of her tenure leading the county’s official arts agency.
“It has been a privilege to work with all the elected officials, community leaders, board members, and staff members as we met our strategic goals and grew both the organization and the strength of its services,” Sullivan said. “Serving and supporting the arts in Fairfax County has been a labor of love and joy.”
When Sullivan first joined as a consultant in 2009, ArtsFairfax was still named the Arts Council of Fairfax County and most known for producing the annual International Children’s Festival hosted by Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts from 1971 to 2011, according to the organization.
Even as the county government made deep budget cuts in the wake of the 2008 recession that included eliminating the children’s festival, ArtsFairfax sought to pivot and expand its mission from programming events to actively working with the county and providing support services to local artists and arts organizations.
John Mason, a former Fairfax City mayor who chaired the arts council’s board of directors at the time, says hiring Sullivan in 2010 to lead the organization through that transition as its president and CEO is “the best thing that I did as chairman.”
“Her term led to a more dynamic, engaged board and staff,” Mason said. “Commendable initiatives included engaging Fairfax County and contributing to its Comprehensive Plan with a strong arts program and, importantly, a comprehensive arts facilities plan for the next decade or so. Additionally, she initiated the challenge of engaging arts organizations and helping to ‘market’ them.”
An arts management consultant with prior experience leading museums and art centers, Sullivan told FFXnow in an interview that she remains proud of the council’s rebranding as ArtsFairfax. Since then, the nonprofit raised its profile and doubled both its budget and the amount of grants it offers to arts organizations.
Recipients of the most recent round of operating support grants, for instance, ranged from theater companies and dance troupes to orchestras and George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival. Read More
Longtime Virginia lawmaker Dick Saslaw, who’s represented parts of Fairfax County for nearly five decades, is retiring.
The 83-year-old Saslaw (D-35) made the announcement on the State Senate floor on this afternoon that he won’t be running for reelection in November.
“It has been the highest honor to serve the people of the 35th District for more than four decades in the Virginia State Senate,” Saslaw said in a statement. “…We’ve still got a ways to go, but I am proud to have played a role in the vast improvement we’ve seen in how marginalized communitiesare treated in the Commonwealth.”
— Senator Dick Saslaw (@DickSaslaw) February 23, 2023
Saslaw has served in the State Senate since 1980, representing the 35th District. That covers a chunk of Fairfax County, including parts of Annandale, Springfield, Falls Church, Lincolnia, Bailey’s Crossroads, and West Falls Church. He was first elected to public office in 1976 as a Virginia Delegate in District 19.
Saslaw is currently the Senate Majority Leader and the longest-serving member in the Senate by more than a decade.
“Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And Saslaw’s gotta move on. Thank you all,” he said, according to Virginia Mercury reporter Graham Moomaw.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw making his retirement official right now on the Senate floor.
He says his "sell by date" is Jan. 10, 2024.
"By then I will have been in the General Assembly 48 years, including 44 in the Senate."
— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) February 23, 2023
Saslaw will serve out his final term, which will end on Jan. 10, 2024.
The legislator’s retirement doesn’t come as a shock, considering his longevity and the long-held rumors, but it does clear up some election intrigue in regard to the recently redrawn 35th District.
2021’s redistricting process placed both Saslaw and fellow veteran lawmaker Sen. Dave Marsden into the same district. Last month, Marsden confirmed to FFXnow that he will run for election in the 35th District.
With Saslaw’s retirement, Marsden will no longer have to face off against a fellow incumbent, though he will have an opponent in June’s Democratic primary.
Saslaw is not the only long-time local lawmaker to announce their retirement in recent days.
Yesterday, long-time Del. Ken Plum announced he’s ending his 44-year career as a Virginia lawmaker. Plum has represented the Reston area in the General Assembly for 44 years.
He told FFXnow that the accomplishments he’s most proud of are helping to expand LGBTQ+ rights and protecting reproductive rights.
Almost immediately, four candidates jumped into the race to take over Plum’s seat next year.
Elsewhere in the county, some senior local elected officials are also heading for retirement. Both Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust announced they won’t seek reelection after their terms end on Dec. 31.
Reston Association‘s COO Larry Butler is officially retiring after more than 40 years with the organization.
His retirement comes after a lengthy career with RA that began when he took a position as a seasonal employee in the spring of 1982.
“Most memorable for me are the life-long friends I have made with the staff and many in the community with whom I have worked,” Butler said. “For the next chapter of my life, I look forward to many adventures including hiking, biking, fishing and spending more time with my family and friends — preferably in the woods somewhere.”
In a press release, RA said Butler was instrumental in starting RA’s lakes and watershed management programs. He also spent several years on the North American Lake Management Society’s board of directors and served as the organization’s president.
Although he left Reston Association in the mid-1990s to work for the Ashburn Village Community Association, he returned to serve as RA’s director of parks and recreation.
He also helped with fundraising efforts for the Nature House, converted the Southgate Pool into a county-operated community center, and helped with the installation of the Browns Chapel Little League Field.
Butler’s colleagues lauded him for his contributions to the organization.
“He has truly been Mr. RA. The familiar face of the organization for decades bringing continuity and stability even during some rocky times,” RA President Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said. “The RA Board is forever grateful to Larry for his leadership, historical knowledge, and most of all his service and commitment to Reston and all Restonians. He will truly be missed.”
RA CEO Mike Cummins called Butler’s impact on the community “profound.”
“He has served in nearly every capacity in our organization and has led our operations and various services in leadership capacities throughout his career here,” Cummins said. “The community owes him much, and the staff is blessed to have had a chance to work with him.”
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.
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. Read More