Former Manassas City Councilman J. Steven Randolph was fondly remembered this week as a man who “stood out in a crowd,” a reference to both his tall stature and his big heart.
Randolph died Jan. 1 after battling leukemia. He was 73.
Friends say Randolph, who was 6 feet 7 inches tall, was a commanding but humble presence on the city council, on which he served as a political independent for 28 years from his first election in 1986 until his retirement in 2014.
Randolph ran for office after first serving as PTA president at his children’s elementary school, Baldwin Elementary. Prior to that, he served on the board of directors for Georgetown South, where he first lived when moving to Manassas in the early 1980s.
A native of Tennessee, Randolph grew up in Georgia and North Carolina and came to the Washington area to take a job in publishing. He was drawn to Manassas because of his “love and passion for history,” according to a 2014 city council resolution commemorating his nearly three decades of service to the city.
Randolph lived in Manassas for 32 years until moving to North Carolina in 2014 to be closer to his adult daughter, Jennifer, his son-in-law, Michael, and his three granddaughters.
Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish (R) remembered Randolph a “great community servant.”
“Steve Randolph loved this community,” Parrish said in a statement. “In the 28 years he served this community on city council, I learned a great deal from his genuine concern and respect for our citizens.”
“He always thought of citizens first,” Parrish added. “He was always willing to help out and listen first and then act. He was not only a great community servant but my friend."
Tim Demeria, a member of the Manassas City School Board, recalled Randolph’s steadfast support for the city’s school division and his enthusiasm for public service.
“He always said democracy is not a spectator sport,” Demeria said.
Indeed, the 2014 city resolution honoring Randolph’s service credits him for, among other things, instituting a citizens’ comment time at every city council meeting and for launching a series of town hall-style meetings “that literally brought the city departments to citizens on a regular basis at designated city elementary schools.”
During his time on the council, Randolph served alongside six mayors and was a member of nearly every council committee and was a longtime chairman of the personnel committee, the resolution states.
Roger Snyder, a former economic development director for the City of Manassas, worked with Randolph for 10 of his 28 years on the council. Snyder called Randolph a “Renaissance man,” someone who knew a lot about a lot of different subjects “but didn’t have an ego.”
Snyder said Randolph kept the city’s staff on their toes with his many questions but was always friendly and professional.
“Steve was very fair to staff, very respectable of staff,” Snyder said. “At all times, he was always about civility.”
During Randolph’s tenure on the city council, he worked to bring the Virginia Railway Express commuter train service to the city and to build a new train station, Snyder said.
Randolph was also an enthusiastic supporter of the construction of the Harris Pavilion at the city center and of efforts to transform the old Hopkins candy factory from a vacant warehouse into what is now the Candy Factory Center for the Arts. Randolph was also a staunch advocate for Manassas City first responders.
“He had a heart of gold,” said City Councilwoman Pam Sebesky. “And his heart was always with Manassas.”
Randolph earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Pfeiffer College and completed graduate coursework at George Mason University. He served as an elder at Manassas Presbyterian Church; director of the Greater Manassas Jaycees; president of the Catherton Area Civic Association, coached youth soccer and basketball teams and served on the board for the Prince William Chorale, according to city records.
Randolph was preceded in death by his mother, Margaret Warren Randolph and father, William Deming Randolph. He leaves behind two children, Warren “Randy” (Bradley Scarborough) Randolph of Washington, D.C., and Jennifer (Michael) Greer of Holly Springs, North Carolina, and three grandchildren: Mary Alice Greer, Brooke Elizabeth Greer and Charlotte Randolph Greer. Randolph also leaves two siblings: William (Lynda) Randolph of Miami Springs, Florida, and Rebecca (Edward Mecsery) Randolph of Miami Springs, Florida, as well as eight nieces and nephews, nine great nieces and nephews and many cousins.
A “Celebration of Steve’s Life,” with a reception to follow, will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Candy Factory Center of the Performing Arts, 9419 Battle St., with Pastor Todd Tennant officiating.
A private interment will be held at Stonewall Memory Gardens in Manassas.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Steve’s memory to benefit Manassas City First Responders: J. Steven Randolph Memorial Fund, c/o City Clerk’s Office, 9027 Center Street, Rm. 101, Manassas, VA 20110.