The Washington Town Council Monday night (Dec. 15) appointed Gay Street Inn co-owner Gary Aichele to fill the seat left vacant by Dan Spethmann’s resignation in early November.
The council’s 4-0 vote to accept council member Mary Ann Kuhn’s nomination of Aichele, one of three residents who’d submitted letters and spoke briefly at the meeting, came a week later than the council intended. The previous Monday’s monthly meeting failed to generate a quorum when, at the last moment, vice mayor Gary Schwartz fell ill; council member Patrick O’Connell, who was present at this week’s special session, was out of town; treasurer Jerry Goebel missed both meetings for the same reason.
“I want to be forthcoming,” Kuhn said, after nominating Aichele, and before the motion was seconded by mayor John Sullivan and approved by Kuhn, O’Connell, Sullivan and Katharine Leggett. “I actually encouraged him to run, and I think that Gary, since he’s been here, like Wendy [Aichele’s wife], for the last year and a half, has rarely missed a council meeting.”
“He has differing views sometimes, and I think that’s refreshing for our town council to have. And that’s the voice, your voice,” she added, addressing Aichele, “that I feel will feed the soul of the town.”
At a raucous and crowded public forum in June, convened by the Rappahannock News after the town came under fire for what some claimed were its undisclosed dealings with developer Jim Abdo (whose plans were revealed in a splashy article in The Washington Post the month before), it was Aichele who rose to defend the town. He pointed out that the town’s process was “sound,” and that, had any of the town’s critics attended the council meetings he’d attended over the past year, few would think anything underhanded was going on.
At town meetings before and since, however, Aichele — a former lawyer, professor and onetime U.S. Supreme Court fellow — has disagreed with several of the council’s actions.
“I think we have three very good people,” Sullivan said, speaking of Aichele, retired hospitality executive Gail Swift and zoning appeals board member Bradley Schneider, who’s lived in the town for a dozen years. “I wish we did not have to choose just one of you.”
“I think you made the right choice,” Swift told the council. She later said she plans to run if and when a circuit court judge, who will decide when (or if) the town must hold a special election to fill Spethmann’s seat. (The four-year term runs through May 2018.)