Loudoun County
Loudoun County

Article VII Section 5 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia establishes that each local government must be governed by an elective body. In Loudoun County, this body takes the form of a Board of Supervisors, which has responsibility for all local legislation, budgeting, and appointments. It operates under the authorities and limits set forth by the Virginia General Assembly.

The board is composed of nine members, all of whom serve concurrent four-year terms on the same election schedule as the Virginia Senate. The chairman is elected in a county-wide at-large race, and the remaining eight members are elected by voters from each of the eight named county districts. Currently, the Republican Party holds a unanimous eight-seat majority. One seat is currently vacant.

Chairman

The Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is the leader of the board and the highest local elected official.

The Incumbent: Scott York (I)

Incumbent Chairman Scott York (R) has served four terms as Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and is seeking reelection. In his current term he was elected as a Republican, but has sometimes served as an independent. This year he is running as an independent.

York has been an active member of the community, having served on the Loudoun County Planning Commission for many years and then serving one term as the Sterling District representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors before being elevated by the voters to the office of chairman. As chairman, he has presided over an incredible period of growth in Loudoun County, and the county has done a reasonably good job of keeping pace with that growth.

In January, York made a surprise announcement that he would not be seeking reelection. The Republican Party went forward with their nomination process and eventually selected Charlie King (R) as their nominee to replace York. The Democratic Party chose Phyllis Randall (D) as their nominee, and the unsuccessful 2011 Democratic nominee, Thomas Bellanca, entered the race as an independent. And then, in June, York made another surprise announcement: he would enter the race as an independent.

At the time he said, “The field of candidates is simply not qualified to lead the county in the capacity of chair.” And accordingly, York has made his many years of experience the main centerpiece of his campaign.

Generally, York has been a successful chairman. His policy positions have emphasized accountability, low taxes, and being business-friendly. He has been a consistent voice calling for detailed reviews of school budgets, and ‘systemic change’ in our schools—positions that have sometimes put him at-odds with the leadership of the school system. He, and the board he leads, have been reasonably effective in getting transportation funding into the area, and have generally kept our government growing only at-pace with development and population growth.

He has not been as effective as I would have liked in exerting control, and imposing accountability, on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and their mismanaged project to bring WMATA’s MetroRail system to Dulles Airport and beyond into Loudoun County. And I would like to see much more action against the owners of the Dulles Greenway, a privately-owned highway that is being operated in violation of state laws (which require that tolls be set in a way that doesn’t ‘materially discourage’ use).

I would also like to see the Board of Supervisors reduce its meddling in private development. Imposing ‘proffers’ that mitigate any negative impacts of development is acceptable, within reason, and this system has been of great benefit to the county. But the board must also recognize that developers have the right to build pretty much whatever they like on property they own. The board should cooperate with developers and can, within reason, require developers to make changes that will mitigate harms. But in the end, the county has no moral or legal right to impose its will on developers. The Constitution of Virginia clearly recognizes property rights as fundamental rights.

York had previously considered supporting the establishment of a Loudoun County Police Department, which would take over primary law enforcement duties from the sheriff’s office. He now opposes creating a police department, claiming—correctly—that it would be fiscally irresponsible and limit accountability. According to York, it is now clear that his previous concerns about the sheriff’s office were caused by former Sheriff Steve Simpson’s (I) poor management, not by the structure of the office itself.

Charlie King (R)

Charlie King (R) stands as the Republican Party nominee for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. King was selected in the Republican primary process after incumbent Chairman Scott York (R) decided not to seek reelection. York has since entered the race as an independent.

King has a private law practice, and has been involved in a number of community organizations. He is the chairman of the Loudoun County Community Criminal Justice Board, and has been heavily involved in a number of local mental health and homelessness programs.

If elected, King plans to develop a new county comprehensive plan, as the current plan has not been substantially updated in about fifteen years. A review along these lines is already in progress, though it is focused primarily on the addition of the new WMATA MetroRail stations that are planned for the Route 28 and Greenway corridors. King implies this new review would be more expansive.

King also intends to encourage more commercial development, which would reduce the need for possible tax increases on residents, but it is unclear what the government role would be in this effort, considering that development is (and should be) primarily driven by private developers. But the intent to keep residential property taxes low is laudable, and King promises to help ensure that county expenditures “don’t grow any faster or larger than is absolutely necessary.”

The most troubling aspect of King’s campaign is his endorsement of the establishment of a police department in Loudoun County, which would take over most law enforcement duties from the sheriff’s office. As a former resident of neighboring Fairfax County, I have seen first-hand how prone county police departments are to corruption and abuse, and how little power citizens have to reform them when they go awry.

When the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office had some very public problems four years ago, the citizens of the county took the initiative to replace the sheriff with a better one. We would have no such power if we had a police department, which would have an appointed chief who would answer day-to-day to the appointed county administrator and then eventually to the board of supervisors.

Establishing a police department would be a waste of money, and would reduce law enforcement accountability in a time where most of the nation is clamoring for more of it. King’s endorsement of a county police department shows a stunning disregard for fiscal responsibility and the realities of local law enforcement.

Phyllis Randall (D)

Phyllis Randall (D) stands as the Democratic Party nominee for Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Randall is a therapist who has served on a number of boards at the state level, and has unsuccessfully sought the Broad Run district seat on both the school board and the board of supervisors.

Randall has made ethics the centerpiece of her campaign, and intends, as her first act in office, to create and enact a code of ethics for the board of supervisors.

Additionally, Randall intends to build a less ‘acrimonious’ relationship between the board of supervisors and the school board. This is a curious position, since most of the acrimony in previous years was due to the school board’s absurd and irresponsible budget proposals, and the board of supervisors is powerless to ensure that the school board acts properly.

Like the Republican nominee, Randall also intends to incentivize more commercial development in Loudoun County so as to maintain a low residential tax rate. But she too provides little detail. Randall pledges that WMATA’s MetroRail line and stations in Loudoun County will be funded through a Metro Tax District, not by residential property taxes.

Randall has not come out definitively for or against the ill-advised proposal to establish a Loudoun County Police Department, which would take most law enforcement responsibilities from the sheriff’s office. She says that the proposal needs to be “given serious consideration,” and makes a claim that the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is “hyper-partisan and overly political.”

I have seen no evidence that this is true. Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) has run his office in a professional and transparent manner, and I have seen no office policies or practices over the last four years that I would characterize as being even slightly political. Randall’s baseless claim is much more “hyper-partisan and overly political” than anything I have ever seen from Sheriff Chapman or his office.

Having lived in neighboring Fairfax County, I have every reason to believe that county police departments are much more prone to corruption and abuse than sheriff’s offices. The citizens have an opportunity to replace a sheriff every four years, but are afforded no such direct power over a police department, which answers to a chief, who answers to the county administrator, who then eventually answers to the elected board of supervisors.

Thomas Bellanca (I)

Thomas Bellanca (I), who stood as the Democratic Party nominee for this office in 2011, is now running as an independent in the race to become the next Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Bellanca is a real estate professional and the founder of Dulles Corridor Real Estate, and has volunteered for thirty years in various community service organizations. He identifies economic development as the most pressing concern for the next four years, and points out that other issues—better schools, better roads, and better government services—are dependent on local economic growth. Bellanca, however, provides very little detail about what he would actually do if elected.

Like the Republican nominee (and possibly the Democratic nominee), Bellanca supports establishing a Loudoun County Police Department, which would take over many of the law enforcement functions currently provided by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Bellanca realizes that this would have “significant costs,” but believes, for reasons unknown, that it would be good for the county.

In reality, a police department would be less accountable to the voters, and more prone—as we have seen in neighboring Fairfax County—to corruption and abuse. People across the United States are clamoring for more transparency and accountability in local law enforcement, but here in Loudoun County, most of our chairman candidates are pushing—inexplicably—in the opposite direction.

Conclusion

This is a confusing race. The incumbent Republican chairman is running as an independent, the 2011 Democratic nominee is running as an independent, and the Republican and Democratic parties have both put forth new nominees of their own. And of the four candidates, only the incumbent has ever held elective office.

On the basis of experience in office, and the generally competent way the county is being run today, my initial inclination is to support the reelection of Chairman York. In a county like Loudoun, vibrant and rapidly growing, it can be risky to put a ‘newbie’ in charge. York originally rose to the chairman’s office after having served one term as a district supervisor, which means that he came into his current office having spent four years learning how the board of supervisors operates. Neither King, Randall, nor Bellanca has followed this path; they would all be starting cold and learning on the job.

What gives me pause about York is this troublesome game he has played with his party affiliation, and his decision to run after having announced publicly that he would not seek reelection. York is a Republican when it suits him, and an independent when it doesn’t. He was stepping down when it suited him, and running again when he changed his mind. He comes across as unsteady.

If a strong candidate has been offered up in York’s place, this nonsense may have been enough to change my vote, but we were not so lucky. In addition to their lack of experience and thin-to-nonexistent policy proposals, all three of the other candidates have voiced some degree of support for the likely-disastrous proposal to create a new Loudoun County Police Department—a costly move that would reduce accountability and transparency in local law enforcement.

This alone makes them dangerous choices for the office they seek. Although York had previously voiced support for a police department, he now promises to oppose any such effort. There’s that unsteadiness again. But we, the voters, can—and should—hold him to it. With this in mind, I endorse the reelection of Scott York as Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Dulles District

Loudoun County’s Dulles District is located in southeast Loudoun, bordering Fairfax County. It includes South Riding, as well as parts of Broadlands, Stone Springs, and Washington Dulles International Airport.

The Incumbent: Matthew “Matt” Letourneau (R)

Incumbent Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) is coming to the end of his first term representing the Dulles District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and is seeking reelection.

Letourneau is the Senior Director of Communications and Media for the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in his career he has served as a White House intern, U.S. Senate aide, press secretary for former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Republican Communications Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

As the Dulles District representative, Letourneau has been a prudent and responsible voice on the board of supervisors. In his campaign, he is highlighting his efforts to enact business-friendly zoning changes, improve the county’s transportation network, fund and improve our schools, bring new county amenities to the rapidly developing Dulles South area, protect community interests, maintain fiscal responsibility, and support public safety initiatives.

Each of these efforts has paid dividends for the people of the district, and the entire county.

Letourneau, like much of the rest of the board, has been too willing to meddle in private development. The board should cooperate with developers and can, within reason, require developers to make changes that will mitigate harms—and Letourneau supports the use of this ‘proffer’ system, which is generally working well. But in the end, the county has no moral or legal right to impose its will on developers. The Constitution of Virginia clearly recognizes property rights as fundamental rights.

Generally, Letourneau has been on the right side of the contentious issues that have come before the board. And even on those rare occasions where I have disagreed with him, I have been continually impressed by his willingness to explain his positions and accept feedback and criticism from his constituents.

In the last four years, Letourneau has proven to be the most responsive elected official that I have ever interacted with at any level of government. He has responded personally to nearly every message I have sent him, sometimes within an hour. When I have brought public safety or transportation issues to his attention, he rapidly addresses them. He works closely and tirelessly with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies to identify and resolve constituent concerns almost as soon as they come up.

Letourneau has also excelled at proactive communication with his constituents. His regular newsletter is a fine example of how elected officials should communicate, laying out the major issues that have been (or will soon be) before the board and thoughtfully evaluating how they are likely to affect the district. Sometimes, he will lay out how he expects to vote and why. And other times, he will lay out the pros-and-cons as he sees them and actually ask for feedback before the vote occurs. Imagine that!

The Challenger: Anjan Chimaladinne (D)

Anjan Chimaladinne (D) stands as the Democratic Party nominee to represent the Dulles District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Chimaladinne immigrated to the United States twenty-five years ago, completing a degree in environmental engineering and becoming a management consultant for the U.S. government. He is now the Director of Business Development and Program Management for an information technology services company.

He has been politically active, serving as the district chair on the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and participating in many local and state elections. Chimaladinne served as the Director of the Technology Committee in Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D-VA) transition team when he prepared to take office, and today serves on McAuliffe’s Information Technology Advisory Council. Chimaladinne unsuccessfully sought election in 2011 as the Democratic nominee to represent the Dulles District on the Loudoun County School Board.

If elected, Chimaladinne promises to fully fund our public schools, establish full-day kindergarten, and offer competitive salaries and benefits. These are curious positions, as the incumbent all-Republican board has increased school funding at a rate far beyond enrollment growth. It is partisan nonsense to imply that the schools have ever not been ‘fully funded.’

Chimaladinne also promises to work with state agencies to accelerate local transportation projects, work with the Virginia General Assembly to lower the insanely high tolls on the privately-owned Dulles Greenway, and ensure that WMATA’s MetroRail comes to Loudoun ‘on time and on budget.’ It is unclear what role, if any, our board of supervisors can really play in any of these areas, and Chimaladinne has not made any concrete proposals. Especially with regard to MetroRail, the board of supervisors can do little more than sit and watch as the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority succeeds or (more likely) fails in their efforts to build the lines and stations.

Lastly, Chimaladinne proposes to update the aging Loudoun County comprehensive plan . . . though these efforts are already in progress under the current board, particularly as we plan what will surround the MetroRail stations that will supposedly be here someday.

Conclusion

Chimaladinne has not made a compelling argument for why he would be better suited to represent the Dulles District than the incumbent, who has been competent, effective, and accountable over the last four years.

Although I would like to see the board spend less time meddling with private developments, and exercise greater restraint and respect for property rights, it is still clear that we have a very prudent and capable representative there today. I endorse the reelection of Matt Letourneau as the Dulles District representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.