Chairman Scott York thinks the decisions facing the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors over the next four years are too important to be used as on-the-job training.
Having served as Board chair since 2001, York was planning to leave public office when the current term concludes at the end of the year. But after being on the receiving end of an “outpouring of concern for the quality of leadership” from constituents, he reconsidered, and is running for a fifth term.
York is running for the office once again as an Independent, as he did prior to the current term, and will face declared challengers Charlie King (Republican), Phyllis Randall (Democrat), and Tom Bellanca (Independent).
In a recent interview with FirewallNOVA, York discussed the key upcoming challenges and opportunities for the next Board, his message to voters of all political persuasions, fellow Sterling resident Eugene Delgaudio, York’s endorsements for county offices, and various other issues. (This is part of an occasional series of candidate interviews prior to the November 3 elections. FirewallNOVA plans to interview Republican nominee Charlie King in the near future. Democrat Phyllis Randall and Independent Tom Bellanca have not yet made themselves available for interviews.)
By not participating in the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) convention, York is again able to launch his Independent bid without having broken the LCRC “pledge” – the same tack he took earlier in his political career when leaving the GOP. Though he took criticism from LCRC Chairman Mike Haynes, York said the current group of candidates for chair “is simply not qualified to lead the county.”
York believes any voters who “do their homework” or talk to the other candidates will come to the same conclusion.
After serving for four years as Sterling District supervisor, York was elected chairman in 2000 and has held the office ever since. Last month, recognized as “Citizen of the Year” by the Loudoun Times-Mirror and the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, York was praised for his “steady presence” over the four terms, whose “leadership was critical to the historic change in residential and business growth.”
In the coming years, that leadership will be just as crucial, according to York. The next Board will need to handle numerous important policy issues, including: oversight of critical transportation improvements; a long-overdue review of the county’s Comprehensive Plan; Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendments, initiated by the current Board to study land uses surrounding the new stations; as well as address school budget funding, new school construction, and requests for all-day kindergarten.
Having previously endorsed Sheriff Mike Chapman for re-election, York is also announcing support for several other candidates in the upcoming elections.
FWN: What are the top issues that will face the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors over the next four years?
There are many issues and challenges on the horizon that the next Board will be facing. A few of them are transportation improvements, public education, and revision(s) to our Comprehensive Plan.
This Board has made significant progress in transportation funding with about $750 million for transportation improvements programmed in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) as well as tens of millions of state funded projects soon to begin or under construction. The new Board will need to continue pushing to ensure that we receive our fair share of funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, maintain the planned road alignments, and work to complete the multi-modal connectivity to the Ashburn and Loudoun Gateway Stations.
It has been nearly 15 years since there has been a comprehensive look at the Comprehensive Plan. While we have approved amendments to the plan, we have not reviewed it in whole since 2001. In my opinion, the next Board needs to initiate a process to do a review and start that process early in the first year of the new term. This will give us the opportunity to review land use and affordable housing policy. The new Board will also be reviewing the Silver Line CPAM (Comprehensive Plan Amendment) that was initiated by this Board to study land uses surrounding the Silver Line stations.
As always, the school’s budget will be a focus year after year with it consuming about 68 cents of every tax dollar. It’s a difficult balance to provide funding for education versus not putting more pressure on the backs of taxpayers. This year we were able to approve the budget with an equalized tax rate and still fully fund the school budget. The big burden has been the need for new school construction to handle the increases in student population growth. Also, there is a growing group of parents who desire to see full-day kindergarten countywide. Based on the last report from the schools, it would cost nearly $60 million just for the infrastructure cost for needed class rooms. Currently, there is no capacity to handle that cost in the CIP.
FWN: Your announcement to run probably caused some disappointment, if not panic, in the local political party machinery. Among the rank-and-file voters in both parties, however, you have obviously struck a chord in previous campaigns. What is your bipartisan message for the campaign kick-off?
The next four years will be critical years for Loudoun with significant land use, transportation, education, and budget issues coming before the Board of Supervisors. It is vital that we have a leader who has the understanding, experience, and vision as these challenging issues come before the Board. We also do not want to step backwards from progress we have made to reduce the tax burden, improve our transportation infrastructure, expand our commercial tax base, make Loudoun business friendly, revive our rural economy, protect our environmentally and historic resources, and provide excellent education.
FWN: Since you and I both live in Sterling, a couple questions related to our home district supervisor: Generally speaking, you ran on the opposite side of Eugene Delgaudio in 2007, and then alongside him in 2011. How would you describe the political or policy relationship between you two now?
Eugene and I agree many times on issues and disagree on others. However, over these last 3½ years, despite the censure and withholding of his office funds for a year, we have collaborated on issues important to Sterling. This has recently been demonstrated by the planning effort to reconstruct the Sterling Fire & Rescue Center, relocate the Sterling Library, and renovate the Sterling Rec. Center, which are all moving forward.
FWN: One of your opponents for the Board is Republican nominee Charlie King, who was Delgaudio’s attorney during his legal controversies of the past term. What is your appraisal of King, whom most voters probably don’t know much else about at this point?
It’s really up to each voter to do their homework or interview the candidate to see if they feel he or she has the knowledge and/or ability to act effectively in the role of chairman and to do so without previously being a district supervisor. It may be easy for others to say King can simply jump in that role, but if you ask the incumbent Board members who are running for re-election to set aside any partisan views, they will likely tell you, the learning curve for being a new Board member is steep and that includes being able to chair a Board standing committee. As chairman of the Board of Supervisors, you are not only setting agendas and chairing all Board meetings, but you are also very involved in regional organizations such as Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the Virginia Association of Counties, just to name a few. King is simply too inexperienced to jump in as chairman of Loudoun County.
FWN: You’ve already endorsed Republican Mike Chapman for sheriff. Do you have any other local endorsements to make yet, for either side of the political fence?
At this time, I’ll give the names of candidates I’m supporting for some of the local offices. Along with my continued support of Sheriff Mike Chapman, I’m supporting Supervisors Ralph Buona, Geary Higgins, Matt Letourneau, and Suzanne Volpe. They have done good work as Supervisors, and it will be great to continue working with them and continue to move Loudoun ahead over the next four years.
I’m supporting our Treasurer Roger Zurn. He continues to do an outstanding job in his role. I’m also supportive of Gary Clemens, our Clerk of the Court. He too has done an outstanding job.