Town of Washington re-elects four current Council members, welcomes a new face to Town Hall

New mayor and treasurer ran unopposed

Seen here on Election Day, Rappahannock County Registrar Kim McKiernan (right) and Assistant Registrar Sheran Rigg check several absentee ballots received at the county’s election office. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News

There was little suspense in the Town of Washington elections today, given Frederic F. “Fred” Catlin ran  unopposed for mayor to replace John Fox Sullivan, although voters did choose five Town Council members from a slate of seven candidates.

The new Council, based on the unofficial count, will consist of returning members Mary Ann Kuhn (46 votes), Patrick O’Connell (41), Katharine Weld “Kat” Leggett (35),  Bradley C. Schneider, Jr., (33), and newcomer Joseph J. Whited (33).

Coming up on the short end were J.R. “Jerry” Goebel, who was appointed to the Council in 2001 and served as the town’s Treasurer for 16 years, receiving 24 votes; and Henry R. “Hank” Gorfein who tallied  23 votes.

Catlin, who will fill  the seat of Mayor Sullivan, who opted not to seek a third term in office, received 75 percent of the votes (38 votes), and there were 13 write-ins.

Gail K. Swift, the lone candidate for Treasurer, won 93 percent of the ballots (47 votes), with 4 write-ins.

Whited, the new face on the Council, is a 39-year-old consultant with the Department of Defense. He is a Navy combat veteran who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has served as a senior intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. A former U.S. congressional staffer, he has lived in the county seat since 2013.

The biggest outcome of Tuesday’s election, however, will be the official passing of the baton on Jan. 1, 2019 by Mayor Sullivan — who opted not to seek a third term in office to Catlin, who has lived in Washington for five years and has served as Chair of the Planning Commission and on Town Council during that time.

Working in the education field for forty years, Catlin owns and teaches at the Albemarle Montessori Children’s Community, serving as a head of school for half that time. Additionally, he has chaired a statewide Montessori educators’ association and served on over fifty nonprofit boards.

Catlin refers to the historic town he will now lead as a “national treasure.”

“I have the strategic vision . . . to help the town sustain its unique character among American small towns, embracing its history while helping to guide a thoughtful plan for its future,” Catlin told this newspaper. “Little Washington should continue to be a place where people want to visit and live.”

The incoming mayor guided and was a primary author of the town’s most recent comprehensive plan, and proposed the creation of task forces that have studied for the past six months aspects of Washington’s future.

“I believe that the Town of Washington is at a unique point in its history — one in which we could seize on opportunities that could benefit the town, sustain its unique nature, and improve the quality of life for residents of the town and Rappahannock County,” he said. “I hope to accomplish a consensus among the town’s citizens that would balance gradual growth with improved amenities for townspeople — all while preserving the unique qualities and character of the town.

Targeted areas by Catlin include infrastructure, business and tourism development, housing opportunities, and fiscal management.

In a recent interview, outgoing Mayor Sullivan acknowledged that it’s “time for a change, both for me and the town.”

“I’ve had a good run,” he said, pointing out the decision not to seek reelection did “not come easily and indeed has evolved over recent months.”

Sullivan described being mayor “the capstone” of his 40-plus year career in national media, much of it spent as a magazine publisher in the big Washington. Besides his eight years in the town’s top leadership position, he served 10 years total on the Council, and two years on the Architectural Review Board.

His two terms as mayor weren’t always smooth sailing.

“I like to think there is a comity and a civility in our town that is lacking in our world at large, and the county for that matter,” he said, describing a fine line that separates the town and Rappahannock County.

Indeed, during the town’s few but significant litigation cases the mayor’s most outspoken critics weren’t even his constituents.

“I get terribly frustrated by the internecine warfare of [certain] people,” he said. “They don’t have a sense of the common good. I’m a believer in the common good. So many people seem to be living in their own little bubble — the mentality that if something good happens to the other guy it’s going to hurt them. It’s a zero-sum game. And I believe just the opposite.”

The town realized numerous accomplishments during Sullivan’s decade of public service, including developing and implementing a state of the art wastewater system; stabilizing the town’s finances through cost controls, sewer and water fees, meals and lodging revenue, the sale of Avon Hall; developing a new Comprehensive Plan with demanding goals; and beautifying the center of a village that is cherished by visitors from around the world.

The mayor said the town will “forever” be his and his wife Beverly’s home. “We’re not going anywhere,” Sullivan said. “We’re not going to disappear.

Full results:


1 precincts of 2 (50.00%) reporting
Candidate Votes Percent
Frederic F. Catlin 38 74.51%
Write In 13 25.49%

Member Town Council (WASHINGTON) x5

1 precincts of 2 (50.00%) reporting
Candidate Votes Percent
Bradley C. Schneider 33 13.87%
J. R. “Jerry” Goebel, Jr. 24 10.08%
Mary Ann Kuhn 46 19.33%
Patrick J. O’Connell 41 17.23%
Henry R. Gorfein 23 9.66%
Joseph J. Whited 33 13.87%
Katharine Weld Leggett 35 14.71%
Write In 3 1.26%
About John McCaslin 420 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at