After a decade of unprecedented growth, Loudoun County faces a new phase of changes and opportunities. Phyllis Randall believes it’s time for fresh leadership, and a new tone of openness and ethics in county government.
The Democratic Party nominee for chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (BOS), Randall has a twenty-year history of volunteer service in roles of increasing responsibility, including her current position as vice chair of the Virginia Board of Corrections. Throughout her time in public service, Randall has also maintained a career in the mental health field, which she intends to put on hold if elected to the Loudoun BOS.
In a recent interview with FirewallNOVA, Randall set forth a clear policy agenda regarding education, development, attracting businesses, and the need to revisit the county’s Comprehensive Plan. On education, for instance, she’s committed to increasing science/math/technology and vocational instruction, and establishing a more cooperative relationship between the BOS and the School Board. She has specific ideas about the Loudoun Gateway and Ashurn Station Metro developments. She wants to improve the transportation grid to make the county more business-friendly (a proposal echoed the other day in Reston with regard to the Silver Line).
In the area of politics, Randall takes exception to the idea that Sterling’s Eugene Delgaudio is attracting Democrats to vote for him.
Moreover, beyond politics and policy, Phyllis Randall thinks it’s time to put a new “face” on Loudoun County. The current chair, Scott York (whom we interviewed earlier this week) has held the office since 2001. Randall wants to apply her own leadership experience to make the government more open, and “build a respectful relationship that honors the job we have been elected to do for the citizens of the county.”
FWN: For Loudoun residents who don’t know about you: I think of you as a “moderate” Democrat. Is that true, and what does it mean?
I do believe I am a “moderate” and it’s a label I proudly wear. In fact, I think that the broad majority of people don’t subscribe to extreme beliefs on the right or on the left but instead want elected officials to engage their common sense to work for the good of the citizens. Being a moderate means that I realize compromise is, at times, not a negative but a necessity. I can, and will, disagree with others without being disagreeable or demonizing those who may not believe as I do. Finally I believe my moderate views can facilitate consensus among my fellow board members and encourage a culture of respect toward one another.
FWN: You have a history of community involvement. What are some of the highlights?
It’s true: I’ve been an active member of the Loudoun community for twenty years. My commitment to serve began with my volunteer work in my children’s Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) and continues today at the state level. In 2009 Governor Tim Kaine appointed me to be the citizen representative on Virginia’s Fair Housing Board. Acknowledging my reputation for problem solving, Governor Bob McDonnell retained me in the position, and I eventually served in the capacity of chairperson. In March of 2014, I was appointed to the Virginia Board of Corrections by the current governor, Terry McAuliffe, and currently serve as the vice chair of this board.
Although my service in every capacity has been fulfilling, the chairperson of Virginia’s Fair Housing Board is the only person in the state with the power to grant appeals to complainants whose case was initially denied. This process required an enormous amount of time; however, it was a responsibility that I took seriously and found to be exceptionally rewarding.
FWN: What are most important one or two issues the Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to act on in the next four years?
Because almost every issue in Loudoun is impacted by Loudoun’s Comprehensive Plan, I believe the most urgent and pressing issue is the need to rewrite our county’s Comprehensive Plan. Although the Comprehensive Plan should be rewritten at least every ten years, the current plan was written in 2001. It is no longer useful in guiding the future of development, school locations, or transportation. Very early in my term, I will instruct county staff to reach out to stakeholder groups, community leaders and most importantly constituents. Together, we will rewrite Loudoun’s Comprehensive Plan. In rewriting the Comprehensive Plan our goal will be to ensure that Loudoun remains a county that produces jobs, provides amenities and adequate housing, and continues to grow economically fifty years after “build out.”
It is critical that Loudoun’s public education system prepare our students for twenty-first century challenges by teaching them how to question, how to think critically, and how to solve the urgent problems facing a new global society. We need to invest in STEM programs, provide more options for the new vocational programs, and offer hands-on learning opportunities. In addition, our teachers need the freedom to instruct in a creative manner that includes using any, and all, of the seven learning styles. To achieve this goal the Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun School Board must form a cooperative, sustainable, respectful, relationship. The cultivation of the relationship between the BOS and the School Board should be led by the chair of the Board of Supervisors.
FWN: Why are you running for the Board of Supervisors?
I am running for various reasons, chief among them is my commitment to education. I believe Loudoun can, and should, have a school system that is responsive to the voices of parents and teachers, while demonstrating measurable outcomes and wise use of taxpayer dollars.
I also want to grow Loudoun’s business and commercial tax base. I believe one of the more effective ways to lower the residential tax rate is to incentivize more businesses to locate in Loudoun. To increase the business tax base, Loudoun needs a transportation grid that moves people efficiently and safely, and that includes Metro and an expanded commuter and transit bus service. A business friendly community also requires affordable housing, family recreation and entertainment, and unyielding protection of our environment and open spaces through forward-thinking, wise-use growth planning.
Finally I will be excited to lead the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Loudoun County staff as we re-write the county’s Comprehensive Plan, taking into account the need for more housing options and amenities to attract new residents to Loudoun.
FWN: In your opinion, what was the best thing done by the current Board over the past three years?
Voting to approve the Metro Silver Line coming to Loudoun was the most important vote of the last three years. The Silver Line will allow Loudoun to experience sustainable economic development and job creation for fifty years after the “build out” of Loudoun is complete. The goal at the Ashburn Station community (772) should be a planned, mixed-use community that offers keynote employment opportunities to Loudoun residents. Because the Loudoun Gateway Station (606) does not allow residential development, this location can and should be a world class development that attracts national and international business to Loudoun. With no residences to offset the tax revenue, the Loudoun Gateway station will have a sustained positive economic impact and increase our commercial tax base.
FWN: And what was the worst thing?
The worst thing is the clear belief of the Board chairman and members that county government does not belong to the people of Loudoun. In almost every way possible, this Board made the decision to decrease transparency and public involvement. This Board began its term with the decision to not sign an ethics pledge. In my opinion a legislative body not serving under a code of ethics is unacceptable.
In February of 2012, this Board cancelled the senior citizens “e-comment” program, calling it “a drain on county resources.” The Board chairman said the program that allowed Loudoun’s elderly residents to record suggestions or comments at four senior centers around the county and have their input relayed to the Board of Supervisors during their regular business meetings was “unnecessary” because “we are an internet community.” This program was cancelled over the objections of Loudoun’s Commission on Aging.
In addition, I find it objectionable that the chairman refuses to hold a “State of the County Address” that is available to every citizen of Loudoun. Instead, he repeatedly makes the choice to deliver the “State of the County” at a business breakfast that is held at 8:30 A.M. at a cost of $75.00. These are just some of the examples of how the current chairman and Board of Supervisors display a clear disregard for the constituents they are elected to serve.
FWN: There is the tax rate, which is a topic for policy and politics, and the actual tax bill, which depends on real estate valuations and is the amount we feel when we pay the mortgage. Do you think we are paying too much or too little, and what changes need to be made to achieve your goals?
I believe the tax rate should be set to keep the tax bill as low as possible while still funding county needs. One of the more effective ways to lower the residential tax rate is to incentivize more businesses to locate in Loudoun. A business-friendly community requires affordable housing, family recreation and entertainment, and unyielding protection of our environment and open spaces through forward-thinking, wise-use growth planning. In addition we must stop the rezoning of revenue positive, tax-lowering commercial development to revenue negative residential properties.
FWN: From the voters’ point of view, this year’s contest for chair is unusual because of the number of candidates – four – and because of who they are. The current chair, Scott York, of course has a record, which I assume you will continue to critique in the coming months. But you, Charlie King and Tom Bellanca are all newcomers, which makes for a complicated decision. How would you explain why you are the best choice, and simplify the decision?
Chairman York broke his word and betrayed the Chamber of Commerce, the Loudoun Times-Mirror and most importantly, the citizens of Loudoun, with the laughable notion that he is the only person qualified to chair the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.
I am a community activist and twenty-two year resident of Loudoun County. My commitment to serve began at the grassroots level, volunteering in my children’s PTAs and PTOs, and continues today at the state level.
I served for two years (2008-2010) as chairperson of the Loudoun County Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Loudoun County School Board. I also served on the Blue Ridge Speech and Hearing Advisory Board and Friends of Loudoun Mental Health. Working with county staff and members of the African American community, I’ve authored every resolution recognizing African American History Month in Loudoun County.
In 2009, Governor Tim Kaine appointed me to be the citizen representative on Virginia’s Fair Housing Board. Acknowledging my reputation for problem solving and consensus building, Governor Bob McDonnell retained my position on the FHB where I eventually served in the capacity of chairperson.
In March of 2014, I was appointed to the Virginia State Board of Corrections by the current Governor, Terry McAuliffe, I am currently the vice chairperson of that board.
I believe the chair of the BOS is the “face” of the county. This person needs not just sit in the middle seat at BOS meetings, but seek to help Board members build a respectful relationship that honors the job we have been elected to do for the citizens of the county. I am confident I am that person. In addition, neither by my associations nor by my behavior will I bring scorn or shame to the citizens of Loudoun County.
Finally, when elected I will resign my position of over twenty years as a Mental Health Therapist. Being the chair of Loudoun will be my full-time job.
FWN: From Sterling District perspective: Most residents here vote Democratic, except for in the case of Eugene Delgaudio. As a longtime Loudoun political observer, what is your take on Sterling’s unique political environment, and during the campaign will you address Sterling any differently than the rest of the county?
The question is: How can the same group of people who vote for President Obama also vote for Supervisor Delgaudio? The truth is, they don’t. Unfortunately, lower voter turnout often favors a candidate with a committed base, but who does not necessary reflect the views of the majority. That is why it is so important for Sterling voters to be engaged during this election.
Obviously, different areas of Loudoun have different concerns, needs and issues. Sterling deserves a chair who realizes some needs of the Sterling community have been largely ignored. Sterling needs keynote businesses to locate in Sterling. In addition Sterling would greatly benefit from redevelopment of some of their shopping areas to mixed use communities that will generate revenue and jobs.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak directly to the voters in Loudoun.