Five Democrats are running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor after Cathy Hudgins, the current supervisor, announced plans to retire earlier this year. This week, Reston Now will publish candidate statements for each of the candidates.
Statements, which are in question-and-answer format, are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words.
What inspired you to run for this seat?
As a 23-year resident who has raised 2 children through our public schools, I know that Reston is a unique, inclusive community which has so much to offer. But Reston is at risk from poorly managed development that has threatened to take our open spaces and harm our quality of life. For years, I have been active with community groups who want to protect our planned community. That concern merged with my passion for the environment, and I decided that nothing I could do would have a greater impact than helping manage development in Fairfax County. As supervisor, I will foster smart growth and transit-oriented development while protecting our green spaces. And I will take action to reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change.
My work as a child advocate attorney also inspired my candidacy. In that role, I have helped ensure that our most vulnerable children get the quality education they need in our public schools, along with mental health care. Both of these vital services provided through our county must be supported and improved.
What are the three biggest concerns you have for Reston? What do you plan to do address them?
My top concern is uncontrolled development. We see this problem in the continuing battle to protect our open spaces (including two 18-hole golf courses) and the fight to avoid raising the density cap in our planned community. As supervisor, I would not approve more residential development without asking whether we have the schools, roads, parks, and public safety to serve them. We need transit-oriented development and expansion of affordable housing opportunities. I will not give up one more inch of the district to unplanned growth.
Fairfax County should take the lead in addressing environmental issues through a public/private partnership, engaging the best minds of our region to find innovative solutions. We must move forward with a community-wide energy and climate action plan. Replacing our streetlights with efficient LED lighting is a good start that must be followed by bold action, including a focus on improving our transit system. Transit options must be expanded and buses upgraded to appeal to riders, reducing our reliance on cars.
Education is my third concern. We must fund universal pre-K. Teachers and other staff need pay raises, while class sizes are reduced. We must establish equity throughout the county by improving our lower-performing schools. When our county has more than 800 trailer classrooms, saying that our school system is “fully funded” rings hollow. We must accelerate our capital investment to eliminate trailer classrooms rapidly. I will work with the school board to ensure that we provide a world-class education to our children and future leaders.
How can the county improve how it manages growth and development in this growing community, especially as it relates to infrastructure needs, transportation, and affordable housing?
Fairfax County residents thrive when growth is managed. The Reston area continues to benefit from the vison of Robert Simon, who believed that high-density housing combined with open space for recreational activities could create a lively and varied community. This philosophy merges easily with today’s transit-oriented development, which emphasizes compact walkable design focused on transit centers and allows decreasing dependence on cars. With expansion of the Silver Line, transit-oriented development should move forward in Fairfax County, while open spaces like golf courses and parks are protected. Bus service should be upgraded to be more convenient and appealing, allowing easy mobility from transit centers to retail and residential sites. Because elected officials should be able to make decisions about development without any possible conflict of interest, I have chosen not to accept any campaign funds from developers.
Affordable housing is a growing need in our area. The county should devote an additional penny on the real estate tax rate to create housing where our teachers, service workers, and young families can afford to live. As Supervisor, I will focus on protecting and increasing affordable housing in all parts of the county — not only in dense areas but also allowing duplex or triplex homes in lower density areas of the county. Affordable housing could be put into underused office buildings, if amenities like shopping and schools are nearby, or co-located in county projects that serve other purposes, like the Residences at the Government Center. Creative solutions must be explored.
What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
Fairfax County should continue to be one of the best places to live in this country, with diverse neighborhoods, quality schools, and housing options for all. We should become leaders environmentally, bringing together the best minds of our high-tech region to solve energy issues and driving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our community-wide climate and energy action plan can become a model for others to emulate. Our transit system should evolve to decrease the amount of time and energy we spend getting from here to there. And all residents should share in a high quality of life that is sustaining and sustainable, with the equity and justice we all deserve. I believe I can lead Hunter Mill District towards this goal.
I am the only candidate in this race who has the breadth of experience in our district, who does not take a dime from corporations or developers — no matter where they have projects, who has advocacy skills to speak up for our residents, and who is beholden to no one but the citizens of Hunter Mill District. This is the leadership we need, now and for the future of Hunter Mill. I hope you agree.
Photo via Laurie Dodd