Memory is funny. If you asked me what I did last Tuesday I would be hard pressed to fill in the details. Some things, however, remain frozen in time, down to seemingly insignificant details.
Lunch at Hunan West on January 11, 1987 is one of those memories. I was working as an Aide to Annandale District Supervisor Audrey Moore. She had pretty much made up her mind to run for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors against incumbent Jack Herrity. My co-workers, Florence, Carolyn and Janet, and I had escaped the office for lunch in the Kings Park Shopping Center.
We began discussing Audrey’s plans, then the subject shifted to who would run for the open Annandale District seat. “Sharon Bulova” announced Florence Naeve. I looked up from my Sweet and Sour Pork laughing, thinking that she was joking. To my horror, my friends’ expressions were electrified. They excitedly began listing all the reasons why this was a good idea. I countered with a list of my shortcomings, why I couldn’t possibly run for office, starting with a phobia about speaking in public. Carolyn smiled broadly and exclaimed, “And see! You’re so modest and organized!”
Sometimes routine events like lunch with friends can prove pivotal. Despite all my doubts and misgivings, I did, indeed run for office, and went on to serve as Annandale – later renamed Braddock – District Supervisor for the next twenty years. When then-Chairman Gerry Connolly was elected to Congress in 2008, I ran for his open seat in a special election on February 3, 2009. This coming February will mark ten years since I have served as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Local government is an awesome place to be. It’s the level of government closest to the people you represent. It’s the place where you can truly make a tangible difference, touch lives, and engage with the community in a personal, positive way. Deciding when to stop is just as hard as making the decision to start down the road of elective office. For me, however, that time has come.
When questioned by Tony Olivo of the Washington Post about my plans for running, I told him I was going to use the Thanksgiving holiday to
||Grandchildren Alex and Josie and step son-in-law Sean adding their perspectives to the family flip chart
think about it, and to talk to my family and friends. On Thanksgiving Day my son David arrived for dinner equipped with a large flip chart and colored stickies for voting. He titled the Chart “Family Decision Making Matrix” and separated it into “Pros” and “Cons.” It was a fun, light-hearted after dinner activity. Many of the items listed on the “Pro” side of the chart were some of the reasons that had already persuaded me to not seek another four-year term. More time with family and grandchildren, time for travel, to entertain, to smell the roses.
It has been an honor to serve the Fairfax County community on the Board of Supervisors. During these past thirty years, I have been privileged to work alongside dedicated elected officials at every level of government, with talented, caring county staff and a county full of enthusiastic community volunteers. While I will not be running for re-election in 2019 I sure do have a lot to look back on with satisfaction. At the top of my list are:
- My role in founding the VRE Commuter Rail System
- Piloting the Silver Line over the finish line to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County through cost containment agreements/strategies that ensured federal financial support
- Successfully navigating the Great Recession and federal Sequestration cutbacks while retaining Fairfax County’s coveted triple AAA Bond rating
- Initiating Faith Communities in Action and Fairfax County’s Communities of Trust
- Convening the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, which resulted in a re-engineering of our outstanding Police Department including greater transparency, a new philosophy with an emphasis on the sanctity of life and de-escalation, an Independent Police Auditor, and a Police Civilian Review Panel
- Working alongside other leaders and agencies to launch Diversion First (1,200 people suffering from mental illness to date have been diverted from potential arrest and into treatment instead)
- Hosting the 2015 World Police & Fire Games
- Overseeing the transformative vision for, and re-planning of, Tysons
- Beginning with the Braddock Nights concert series, sparking countywide summer performances in our County parks
- Serving on Fairfax County’s Governing Board to Prevent and End Homelessness. (During my time as Chairman, homelessness in the County has been reduced by almost 50%)
- Promoting environmental stewardship through policies, programs and events including:
- Environmental Vision (Since I’ve been Chairman, county government buildings have reduced carbon emissions from electricity and natural gas by 19%)
- New Energy Strategy
- Private Sector Energy Task Force
- Environmental Showcase
- Spearheading and supporting numerous history and arts initiatives:
- Braddock’s True Gold/A Look Back at Braddock
- The Fairfax County Asian American History Project
- Fairfax County’s 275th Anniversary Celebration
My term does not end until the end of next year. Between now and then there is still much to do and to contribute. I look forward to working with you during these months ahead and thank you for your engagement and participation in your community.