John Vihstadt harnessed over 30 years of schools and community activism to win a seat on the Arlington County Board in 2014 as the first Independent in decades. Voters across the political spectrum appreciated his open and fair-minded perspective. He changed the County Board room conversation by forging cooperative relationships with his colleagues to question the way business has always been done and to weigh new approaches to Arlington's many challenges.
As the only Independent, John brought true debate, discussion and balance to the Board, which made the County better.
His energy and accessibility were hallmarks of his service, and he was always eager to bring County government to the neighborhoods by speaking with civic associations and community groups and visiting with constituents on issues of the day.
John’s foundation for the County Board included years of service in our neighborhoods, with Arlington Public Schools and in the community at large.
His leadership and experience as president of his neighborhood civic association, on the Arlington County Civic Federation Board, as president of the Yorktown High School PTA and Co-Chair of a School Bond campaign, on the Board of the non-profit Community Residences, Inc. for the developmentally disabled, and on the Housing, Aging and Planning Commissions, all allowed him to hit the ground running and build a record of accomplishment on the County Board from his first months of service.
First term accomplishments included working with the Virginia General Assembly and former Governor McAuliffe to secure permission for Arlington to hire an independent County Auditor that reports directly to the County Board—not the County Manager. A financial waste, fraud and abuse hotline is in place. He led efforts to reform the County budget process by pushing to consider the annual budget surplus in the context of the following year’s budget, rather than spending it immediately and outside the context of the normal budget cycle. The Board agreed with John to work towards advertising on Capital BikeShare and ART, which will yield increased transit revenue at no net taxpayer cost. And the Board prioritized keeping pace with the capacity needs of our public schools and increased investment on the basics like paving, street lights and other community infrastructure.
As a County Board Member
As a County Board member, John served as a liaison to several County advisory and working groups, ranging from environmental stewardship to human rights and criminal justice.
- Park & Recreation Commission
- Urban Forestry Commission
- Public Spaces Master Plan Update
- Housing Commission
- Historic Affairs & Landmark Review Board
- Human Rights Commission
- Community Criminal Justice Board
- Rosslyn Business Improvement District
- Four Mile Run Valley Master Planning Initiative
- Reed Elementary School Working Group
John also appreciated the value of forging state and regional relationships and working across jurisdictional lines.
His responsibilities on behalf of Arlington during his tenure on the Board included:
- Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) board of directors
- Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) member
- Region Forward Coalition, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MCOG) member
- Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) liaison
- NoVaParks (formerly, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) liaison
John and his wife Mary, a government affairs consultant, Arlington Historical Society volunteer and avid gardener, have lived in Tara-Leeway Heights for almost 30 years and met while both were renters on Columbia Pike. They raised two sons, who are proud graduates of Arlington Public Schools. John also practices law in downtown Washington, commuting by public transit. A graduate of the University of Nebraska and its College of Law, John was a VISTA volunteer and a Legal Services Corporation attorney prior to moving to Washington in the early 1980’s.