The town of Herndon will see heavy turnover on its council this summer, after electing a new mayor Tuesday and filling three open council seats.
Councilwoman Lisa Merkel, who is just completing her first term on the council, narrowly won the office of mayor. She received 38 more votes than her top opponent, longtime Councilman William Tirrell.
Merkel received 966 votes, Tirrell got 928, and Jasbinder Singh, also a one-term councilman, received 561.
Incumbent Mayor Steve DeBenedittis did not seek re-election.
Merkel said she is excited to continue working on town issues, particularly economic development planning for redevelopment.
“We want to get businesses in our empty storefronts,” she said.
Merkel, Tirrell and Singh all had to vacate their council seats to run for mayor, leaving half of the six council seats open.
The three remaining incumbents, Connie Hutchinson, Grace Wolf and Sheila Olem, were all re-elected. Hutchinson received the most votes of any council candidate so, per town tradition, likely will be elected vice mayor when the new council convenes in July.
Former councilmen Dave Kirby and Charlie Waddell won their seats back, while Melissa Jonas was the only one of four first-time candidates to win a seat. Eric Boll, Jeffrey Davidson and David Webster were unsuccessful in their first attempt at winning local office.
Jonas currently serves on the town’s planning commission, and said she thinks that experience will help her easily transition to the council, as she already has been working on major development issues in town.
Although there were some clear differences between the candidates during the election, Merkel said she thinks the council ultimately will have a good working relationship.
“There is more that we agree on than we disagree,” she said, adding building consensus among council members will be a top priority for her as she takes the mayoral post. “We’ve got a great group of people who care about the town.”
Revitalizing Herndon’s historic downtown and planning for growth and redevelopment around the future Herndon Metro station likely will continue to be at the forefront for the council.
Waddell said he has heard from many citizens who want to “see the downtown development reach its full potential.”
He would like to reinvigorate business and community focus on revitalizing downtown through a public engagement process. He would like to see additional entertainment and dining options to make the area more attractive to people looking for things to do.
Jonas said she also is interested in engaging the public on upcoming issues.
“We’re coming up on some big opportunities for the community to be involved as we shape the future of Herndon,” she said, citing the town’s upcoming comprehensive plan review process.