I would like to comment on a couple of recent letters written regarding Mr. Townsend “Van” Van Fleet and the Gazette Packet’s reference to him as a “leading spokesperson”, which obviously drew a few derogatory comments. One letter writer went so far as to refer to Mr. Van Fleet as a “gadfly”. I personally find this comment equally distasteful for the writer and the Gazette Packet for allowing the personal attack, despite rhetoric in their paper stating they would not publish any letters with such comments. Would the Gazette publish the same comments written about the current Mayor?
I completely understand that everyone has a right to freedom of speech and is entitled to their own opinions on various issues. No one understands this better than Mr. Van Fleet, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, where he helped fight for individual freedoms.
Mr. Van Fleet, who along with his beloved wife Julie (who succumbed to breast cancer) have tirelessly fought for not weeks or months, but years to protect the historical buildings and landmarks in our city from greedy developers. He has helped make our community safer for our city residents, children and grandchildren. He has also fought hard to ensure we don’t wake up each morning and look out onto a sea of metal and glass – like Crystal City.
He has also been one of few people on many occasions to advocate on behalf of the elderly, disabled, disadvantaged and veterans to the City Council and city staff since these groups would not listen to these individuals. Mr. Van Fleet asked for nothing to be their advocate, nor did he ever seek any attention for it. He was just being the kind and considerate person he is. Mr. Van Fleet is a very tall and gregarious individual, certainly not a “gadfly”.
Mr. Van Fleet is the immediate past President of the Old Town Civic Association (OTCA), the oldest civic association in this city. One letter writer referred to this organization as “only a few hundred residents”. I would encourage the letter writer to attend an OTCA meeting and see that this great organization is comprised of many more concerned city residents than a just a “few hundred”. Mr. Van Fleet has and does attend dozens of civic association, civic organization and city hall committee and subcommittee and ad hoc meetings every month. For all of that, I would say he is a “leading spokesman for Old Town Alexandria”.
In the development I live in, we have tried to get traffic calming features installed by the city for the past nine years, without any success. Mr. Van Fleet was able to open a dialogue with the city transportation department to help our development. Just this past May, we finally received some traffic calming features in place. Our residents and children are now much safer due to the efforts of Mr. Van Fleet, yet he doesn’t even live in our development.
If all of the above qualifies someone to be a “gadfly”, I wish the City of Alexandria was full of gadflies as we would all be better off.
I do know one thing for sure, that on Nov. 3, I will be voting for the “gadfly” and I strongly urge all residents of the City of Alexandria to vote for Townsend “Van” Van Fleet.
Bryan B. Kirkes