Progress Update from Engage Fairfax

In October, the City of Fairfax announced its Connecting Fairfax City for All initiative to study racial and social equity in Fairfax City.  The initiative includes establishing a 15-person Stakeholder Group reflecting diverse interests to facilitate community discussion and to make recommendations to the City Council.  The City has recently provided the following update on its progress in determining the members of the Stakeholder Group and scheduling initial Listening and Learning Sessions.  If you would like to receive updates from Engage Fairfax on this initiative, visit the Engage Fairfax website at and subscribe.

Connecting Fairfax City for All Progress Update 

The Connecting Fairfax City for All initiative to study racial and social equity in Fairfax City is moving forward. Several important actions have been taken since city council’s approval of the initiative on October 27, 2020. 

Selecting the Stakeholder Group

A diverse group of 15 stakeholders will facilitate community voices and make recommendations to the mayor and city council based on feedback gathered throughout the process. 

  • Positions were set aside for one representative from Historic Fairfax City, Inc., Mosby Woods Community Association, and the local Neighbors for Change group.  The remaining 12 stakeholders will be selected from the community at large.  
  • City staff and George Mason University Jimmy and Rosalynn School for Peace and Conflict Resolution students collaborated to develop the application questions designed to solicit information about an applicant’s home neighborhood, length of residence in the city, age range, and knowledge of the Civil War and how it has been memorialized in our community. 
  • Councilmembers Janice Miller and Jon Stehle (appointed by Mayor David Meyer), along with city staff and Dr. Juliette Shedd from the Carter School have met and developed questions, criteria, and methodology to review the 83 applications.  (This number doesn’t include designated stakeholders Matthew West, Historic Fairfax City, Inc.; Susan Olenchuk, Mosby Woods Community Association; and Laura Bowles, the designated stakeholder from the local Neighbors for Change group.)
  • This review will take place with Councilmembers Miller and Stehle, Dr. Shedd, and staff members. The team is meeting with applicants in several one-hour, small group meetings. A matrix has been developed to look at what each applicant can contribute to the process and how the applicant interacts with others in the small group setting.
  • The review team will meet December 22 to formulate recommendations for the mayor and council. The proposed stakeholder group will be presented to council during a closed session on January 5, 2021, and put forward for council appointment on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.  

Community Listening and Learning Sessions Logistics

  • City staff and Carter School professors and students conducted two pilot Community Listening and Learning Sessions. The theme was an illustrated overview of the Civil War in central Fairfax and how those events and personalities have been remembered in monuments, markers, street and neighborhood names, and images in the city seal.  
  • Thirty-nine attendees participated in the virtual sessions and facilitated conversations led by George Mason University students under the guidance of Dr. Adina Friedman. The pilot sessions provided the project team practice in logistics and methodology prior to the first Community Listening and Learning Sessions for the stakeholder group.

Scheduling Listening and Learning Sessions

Planning and confirming the presenters for the Community Listening and Learning Sessions is underway.  The first two Community Listening and Learning Sessions have been scheduled.

  • 7 p.m., Thursday, January 28. Kim Holien, retired military historian for the Department of the Army, will present “Fairfax Court House:  Crossroads of Conflict.” This program will set up the historical context for later sessions. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.
  • 7 p.m., Thursday, February 11. Dr. Karen L. Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, will focus on “The Lost Cause and Confederate Monuments and Memory.”  Facilitated discussion will follow her presentation. 

Additionally, city staff are researching qualified presenters and panelists for future topics, researching archives and online sources for information about street and neighborhood names, and reviewing feedback shared on the Engage Fairfax project page.

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