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Discover Western Prince William March 2018
Longtime Manassas residents likely recall the fact that their beloved hometown was
in fact a town for many years before it became a full-fledged city on May 1, 1975.
With a population of about 44,000, it's not on the same scale as nearby Washington,
DC, yet it still takes a lot of collaboration to ensure city citizen needs are met.
Discovery Publications is embarking on a multi-month adventure to enlighten
residents on many of the city's administrative facets, beginning with an introduction
to the governing bodies, the Mayor and the City Council.
The Mayor
Local businessman and lifelong Manassas resident Harry (Hal) J. Parrish II currently
serves as the city's mayor, and his service history runs deep. In fact, you could say
it runs in the family, since his father served as mayor of the Town of Manassas from
19631975 and continued to serve after it achieved city status until 1981.
Prior to taking on his municipal duties, Mayor
Parrish earned a degree in engineering from
the University of Virginia and was promptly
commissioned into the United States Air
Force (he had earned his pilot's license at
age 17), where he served for five years before
returning to the family business, Manassas
Ice & Fuel Co.
He began his service to Manassas in 1993,
when an unexpected vacancy on the City
Council led him to apply for and be invited to
complete three-and-a-half years of a four-year
term. "I was always mindful that I hadn't been
elected to the position," Mayor Parrish says.
"I worked hard to understand the budget and
collaborate with citizens." He was re-elected
to his position in 1996, 2000, and 2004. He
was chosen to serve as Vice Mayor in 1999, a
role he held until being elected Mayor in 2008.
He has since been re-elected twice, in 2012
and 2016.
You may be surprised to learn that the Mayor, while tasked with the responsibility
of presiding over City Council meetings and possessing the same right to speak
as Council members, does not have the right to vote on issues, except in the case
of a tie--and with one exception. It takes four Council member votes to pass the
annual budget.
In addition, the Mayor works closely with Council members on important issues,
attends all meetings, and appoints City Council members to three standing
committees--Finance; Economic/Community Development & Land Use; and
Personnel, as well as a host of additional committees, commissions, and advisory
boards. And of course, the Mayor is recognized as the head of the city for ceremonial
Although the mayoral position is considered a part-time job, Mayor Parrish often
puts in long hours to ensure he carries out his responsibilities. Having worked full-
time for decades in his family business, he's accustomed to management, hiring,
working with people, and taking care of customers. "Our local government is
similar," he says. "Citizens should be treated like customers." However, he's careful
not to get into city management, which is the role of a hired City Manager and other
staff members.
Mayor Parrish points out that although Manassas is far from the largest jurisdiction
in the state, it's likely one of the most complicated. It has its own school system
(separate from Prince William County Schools) as well as its own airport and
services for water and electricity, as well as separate departments for police, fire, and
rescue, human resources, and information technology. Manassas even has its own
All Things Manassas, Part 1:
Meet the Mayor and City Council
lake, which provides about
14 million gallons of water
daily to the entire county.
The City Council
The seven-person City
Council includes the Mayor
and six At-Large elected
members, one of whom is
then selected to serve as
Vice Mayor. Collectively,
the City Council is vested
with all legislative powers
of the City. Adhering to the
laws of the Commonwealth
as well as to the City Charter, the City Council determines the needs of Manassas
citizens, and establishes ordinances, policies, and budgets that determine what
kind of services are to be delivered, as well as how they are delivered and what
they will cost.
The current City Council members are:
Marc Aveni, Sheryl Bass (Vice Mayor), Ken Elston, Ian Lovejoy, Pam Sebesky, and
Mark Wolfe. The Mayor and City Council members serve four-year overlapping
terms and run for office during the general election of even-numbered years; they
can seek re-election as many times as they wish. For Councilmen Aveni and Elston,
as well as Vice Mayor Bass, 2018 marks the final year of their current term. The
terms of Councilmen Lovejoy and Wolfe, Councilwoman Sebesky, and Mayor
Parrish run through 2020.
The city has several legislative priorities noted for 2018, and they are centered
on fiscal relationships, transportation, education, public safety, land use, and
utilities. These tie in to the committees on which they serve. For example, Marc
Aveni chairs the Finance Committee and serves as an alternate to the Economic/
Community Development & Land Use Committee. Vice Mayor Bass serves on the
Finance and Economic/Community Development & Land Use Committees. Ken
Elston chairs the Personnel Committee and serves on the Finance Committee. Ian
Lovejoy chairs the Economic/Community Development & Land Use Committee
and serves on the Personnel Committee. Pam Sebesky serves on the Personnel
Committee and as an alternate to the Finance Committee. Mark Wolf serves on the
Economic/Community Development & Land Use Committee and as an alternate to
the Personnel Committee. Also as noted, all Council members serve as liaisons to
additional city committees and commissions. The committees' purpose is to spend
time exploring issues in greater detail and make recommendations for the City
Council to consider.
If all of this sounds complicated, that's because it is! City Council members spend
long hours in committee meetings, Council work session meetings, and regular
Council meetings. The latter are held the second and fourth Monday of each month
(with occasional changes for holidays) in the Council Chambers at City Hall (9027
Center Street), and the public is always invited to attend. During these meetings,
they discuss a broad variety of issues that affect residents--and as city residents
themselves who will be impacted by their own decisions, nothing is taken lightly.
Council meeting agendas include Citizens' Time, where residents can address the
Council directly on matters of personal importance.
"I believe local government needs to be open and transparent," says Mayor Parrish,
adding that Council members care about the city and want to see it succeed.
"Every jurisdiction has its challenges, but Manassas is in good shape. We're
growing responsibly and accomplishing a lot." He points out that public amenities
are improving thanks to broader support for fire and rescue services, plans for a
new public safety facility, upgrading school facilities, and expanding water and
sewer facilities. Old Town Manassas restaurants and retail shops are thriving
too. Want to get involved? Attend a City Council meeting! To learn more, visit
~ Nancy Griffin-Bonnaire
Pam Sebesky, Ken Elston, Mark Wolfe, Mayor Hal Parrish,
Marc Aveni, Ian Lovejoy, and Vice Mayor Sheryl Bass
Harry (Hal) J. Parrish II