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The Right Note: Zimmerman Calls it Quits

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark KellyYesterday, Chris Zimmerman announced he was resigning from the County Board before his term ends next year. Zimmerman will take on a full-time job with Smart Growth America.

Unapologetically liberal, Zimmerman believes in steadily raising taxes in order to grow government. Zimmerman has never pulled punches when it comes to partisan politics either. He took regular swings at Republicans in Richmond and Washington.

In his retirement announcement, Zimmerman gave a predictably upbeat assessment of his 18-year tenure on the County Board. No one can blame him for leaving out less successful initiatives like the Artisphere, or empty ground floor retail space, or the decline of Metro while he served on the WMATA Board.

With Metro in mind, it can be noted Zimmerman has served on every transportation commission in the region — fashioning himself into a go-to guy for Democrats on the issue. Zimmerman’s most famous pet transportation project is, of course, the proposed Columbia Pike trolley. What Arlingtonians can ask today is, does Zimmerman’s retirement provide a glimmer of hope that the project could still be stopped?

It is no doubt other Board members do not share Zimmerman’s passion for it. A win by a trolley opponent in the special election would mean Libby Garvey would gain an ally and a second vote against the trolley’s construction. It will be interesting to watch what promises to be a crowded Democratic field take positions, or bend themselves in rhetorical knots not to take a position, on the trolley.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to run against Mr. Zimmerman in what looks like it may be his last campaign for public office. It goes without saying that we agree on very little politically. However, he was always friendly and considerate at our various joint appearances and other community events where our paths crossed on the campaign trail, regardless of whether voters were watching.

In particular, I recall a specific event at Thomas Jefferson Middle School where he went out of his way to be gracious to my two young daughters who were campaigning with me. While I may be cheering for Mr. Zimmerman’s signature project to come to an unceremonious end, and soon, I wish him all the best as he moves on from elected office.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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