John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat elected to serve on the Arlington County Board since 1999, was sworn in to his new position this afternoon.
In his first remarks as a County Board member — filling the seat that Chris Zimmerman vacated when he resigned earlier this year — Vihstadt vowed to introduce an “audit function” to the Board, rein in spending and “break down silos” in county government.
“Our victory was not a victory for one candidate or one person,” Vihstadt said from a podium in the County Board room, “it was a victory for the people of Arlington County.”
Vihstadt, who ran as an independent endorsed by the Republican and Green parties, defeated Democrat Alan Howze on Tuesday by a 57 to 41 percent margin. The two will face off again in November’s general election, on the ballot with the race for Sen. Mark Warner (D)’s seat and the congressional seat of retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).
Vihstadt campaigned against projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and Artisphere, a message that resonated with the majority of the 22,209 voters on Tuesday. Friday afternoon, Vihstadt promised to follow through on his campaign platforms.
“I’ll question county spending decisions and ask ‘do we need it? How do we pay for it?’” he said. “It’s time county government lives within its means.”
Vihstadt also said he wants to reform the county’s bond process and the wording of ballot items, both measures that could reduce Arlington’s capability for large community investments.
County Board Chairman Jay Fisette introduced Vihstadt, whose father held the bible during the ceremony, and explained why the ceremony was pushed back to Friday when it was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Virginia passed a law in 2012, Fisette said, that required any provisional ballots to be reviewed by the Friday after an election before the results could be certified. There was one provisional ballot cast in the special election.
“Many of us have worked with John, and I certainly have on a variety of things over the years,” Fisette said. “I look forward to getting back to work with John as one of the five of us on the Board.”
Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, as was Board member Libby Garvey and Commonweath’s Attorney Theo Stamos, both Democrats who endorsed Vihstadt’s campaign. Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes was attending a regional meeting and Board member Walter Tejada was late, leading Fisette to comment that Tejada was “running on Latino time.”