My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Mr. Randolph

I saw on Facebook about two days ago that former City Councilman Steve Randolph passed away.  There is no mention of Steve's passing on the City's Facebook page which I find discouraging.  See, Steve served the citizens of Manassas for a very long time.  24 years maybe?  He was one of those guys who really believed in what he was doing – there was no cynicism or "self" in Steve's politics.  He never once thought about how to elevate himself or what was best for Steve.  It was always a vote for what he thought was in the City's best interest.

I had the pleasure of serving with Steve for 8 years on the Council.  The first time I ran it produced a lot of heartache in the ranks of the GOP because you would always see the same two yard signs together:  Randolph and Harrover and Steve was an independent, not a Republican!  In truth our politics, especially at the local level were a lot alike.  We both believed in governance over drama.  Steve was always willing to make principled, unpopular votes and we both were willing to swallow hard and spend taxpayer money when we thought it best for the citizens.  Many of the folks from previous Councils share that trait. However, Steve never forgot that he represented the people.

While our politics may have been a lot alike, our life experiences were not.  I came on to the Council a brash, young-ish entrepreneur, ready to apply business lessons to government.  When I got there, Steve had already been on the Council probably 15 years….and don't forget Steve had long involvement with the schools prior to Council.  Steve was very much the moderating influence on any number of people.  He was a careful, thoughtful man.  At one point, in a heated budget debate I told Steve that "this is the way we do this in Business!!!".  Steve's calm reply was "that's great Andy, but we're not running a business here".  That stung a bit but Steve meant no insult – it stung because he was right and I knew it.  That statement (and one other that I'll get to) has been with me ever since.

In a public meeting, Steve was always careful and thoughtful.  He was a veteran of many of the epic public hearings that took place during the heavy development in the City in the 90's.  I well remember some of those meetings as an observer.  Lines out the door.  Not a lot of happy faces in the crowd.  Steve was there for those and I feel the experience made an impression upon him.  He very much wanted to represent the ordinary people of Manassas.  Steve was an Everyman, make no mistake.  If he came to a public hearing and there was a full house of angry people, he was willing to work hard to find a different way to achieve an end.  He was there to represent the citizens – ALL of the citizens.  During a very long Public Hearing, when everyone was really trying to get things wrapped up Steve said something I'll never forget:  "Everything has been said but not everyone has said it".  That really took the temperature of the room down a few degrees….but the meeting went on for another hour.  🙂

Steve had the single best campaign story I've ever heard.  I think this took place during the campaign where he earned the name "Landslide Randolph" (he beat a competitor by 2 votes).  He said, "I was driving by a persons house who I know had a yard sign but I didn't see it.  So, I pulled over to find out what had happened".  Recall that back then, a yard sign was no small commitment.  It wasn't "yeah, whatever", it was a four-square endorsement and when one of your signs came down, you went and found out why.  Steve pulled over and, as he was walking down the sidewalk to the house, he noticed a black spot in the lawn.  He bent over, pushed aside some grass with his hands and discovered a black pattern in the grass that was longish….with a wider spot in the middle.  It dawned on him, as he was bent over peering at the ground, that someone had set his sign on fire and that the black outline was where the burning cardboard and wooden pole had burned the grass!  Single best campaign story ever.  His friend explained to him that a neighbor kid had set the sign on fire and that he had meant to get a new one.

I'm sad that Steve moved down south after his retirement from Council but I know that his single greatest joy at that point in his life was his family and his grandchildren.  He enjoyed serving the citizens but he enjoyed those closest to him even more.  Godspeed Steve, you were a good man and I'm better for having known you.


  1. andy

    January 4, 2018 at 9:06 am

    The story was already very long but I wanted to tell one last story and this is an oldie:

    Steve told me the story behind the Harris pavilion vote.  The Mayor at the time, Mr. Gillum had been working the Council very hard to get the requisite votes to get the thing approved.  The Pavilion enjoyed unparalleled support from the business community (who put up some of the money as well) and the politicians were under a lot of pressure to make it happen. 

    The day of the final vote came and Steve assured the Mayor that he was on board but, deep down, Steve was still nervous.  What normally happens in this instance is that, after the motion to approve is made and seconded, the Mayor will ask for discussion.  Steve knew that the Mayor expected no discussion, just a vote.  However, like a lot of folks in that position, Steve had a deep-seated desire to explain his vote.  I’ve had it happen to me too – it’s as if only you could get out a few more words everyone against your position will suddenly see the light and agree  (Jackson Miller once told me “just be quiet and vote” and he was right!).

    The motion was made and seconded.  The Mayor, expecting silence, asked for discussion.  Steve raised his hand and started to talk, at which point he told me  ”I turned my head toward the Mayor and all I can remember is seeing is him arch his eye brow in a quizzical fashion – as if to ask “why are you talking” and I lost my nerve.  I put my hand down, stopped talking and just voted yes”.

    A great story about inside baseball back in the day.

  2. Thanks Andy for recognizing Steve. I was not aware he had passed. He was a serious, kind and gentle man. He was very supportive and helpful to me during my time on the Manassas Budiness Council.  I learned much from him and attribute much of my success in my second career to lessons learned under his guidance.

  3. I have several great memories of him. One was coming out of the Food Lion (Bloom) and seeing him returning a grocery cart from behind the store. I asked him what he was doing and he said the residents of Quarry Station would use the carts to take their groceries home. He was basically the cart man, returning the carts to the store for the little old ladies. I have many photos of him because he was always at community events, talking — and listening — to people, from gang summit to neighborhood conference, to the unveiling of the Gillum city hall sign. May he rest in peace.

  4. Andy, thank you for this wonderful tribute to my amazing Dad!! Dad is coming “ home to Manassas” with a celebration of life being scheduled at the Manassas Candy Factory the afternoon of Sunday 1/14. Details are being finalized now and will be broadcast ASAP. We hope to see as many of you thaere as can make it. 

  5. Wonderful tribute to Steve.  Thanks for sharing Andy

  6. Andy, very nice tribute.  I was not aware of Steve's passing either and it saddens me.  

    Steve was Mr. Manassas, in my eyes.  You could always see him out at any event.  He really seemed to encapsulate the concept of community.  In fact, I never think of Old Town that I don't think of Steve.  

    Happy hunting to Big Dog!  He definitely left his mark!

  7. I will be at the rememberance. I liked Steve, and I respected Steve. A true gentleman, who possessed so many legacy virtues.

  8. The service was a wonderful tribute to Mr. Randolph, and was well attended. His positive legacy within this city reaches far and wide.

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