On Nov. 6, voters in Leesburg will be filling seats on the Town Council and making their choice for mayor. In this year’s mayoral race, voters have a choice between popular incumbent Kristen Umstattd and a newcomer Linda Shotton, a familiar face from town committees.
With the recent change in election scheduling, this is the first time voters in Leesburg will be casting ballots for the presidential race at the same time as town elections.
After 10 years as mayor, Kristen Umstattd takes great pride in her town, particularly its recent national rankings from magazines like Forbes and Fortune.
“They love Leesburg,” is a phrase she repeats when talking about the wide variety of official visitors to the area. She believes that much of this has to do with the unique feel of downtown Leesburg, but there is always a balance with economic development.
“There is a balance to be struck and I tend to side with preserving the old town historic style, because that is what tends to give our residents a sense of community, a sense of place,” said Umstattd.
And while she favors the construction of Class A office space to attract new businesses, she remains opposed to buildings above a certain height because she feels it diminishes the strength of the downtown.
“I worry about losing that sense of community and that small town feel.”
Another of Umstattd’s priorities remains the ongoing improvements to transportation – the next being the Sycolin Road flyover and the climbing lane on Route 7 going to Clarke’s Gap.
When looking to the next term, Umstattd raised two concerns. First, the growth has meant that the town cannot take on any large new spending projects. “We’ve set a road map for low taxes, but there’s a challenge ahead with new projects.”
She also expressed concerns that with Loudoun County diverting all gas tax money to the Silver Line, it has left the local bus service underfunded – possibly forcing the closure of 15 bus routes if no resolution can be settled.
A Philadelphia native, Umstattd is a Yale graduate, also receiving her law degree from Yale Law. After graduation, she spent four years in the Navy, later moving to the CIA as a Soviet naval analyst.
Umstattd has been active in the town almost since moving to it in 1987. She was elected to the Leesburg Town Council in 1992 and then as vice mayor in 2000 before her election as mayor in 2002. In her 10-year tenure, Umstattd has served on several statewide and regional organizations.
Umstattd lives in Leesburg and practices law with her husband Charles Moss. The couple have one daughter, a sophomore at Loudoun County High School.
While her opponent in the mayor’s race is a 10-year incumbent, Linda Shotton is far from an unknown in Leesburg.
A former president of the Master Gardeners and current chair of the Environmental Advisory Commission, Shotton was also a founding member of the Historic District Resident’s Association. She remains proud of the resident association’s work to reignite the Leesburg Independence Day celebration.
According to Shotton, “It’s time to move forward with Leesburg. We’re about built out with the only things left being in-field development and annexation of spaces that we need to control, like outside of the airport. The county would be happy to throw up townhomes, but houses and airports don’t go together. What we really need is commercial space to offset our residential base.”
Shotton sees an increase in Leesburg’s commercial tax base as essential to avoiding higher residential taxes in the future.
Other issues close to her are the necessity of improving pedestrian options in town and maintaining county and court buildings in Leesburg. According to Shotton, the town needs to be proactive about these needs now and suggests approaching both organizations by asking: “What can we do to help, while still maintaining our historic charm?”
She points to problems like the $70,000 water hookup fee for a restaurant in a new facility as an example of regulations set up against businesses.
Shotton moved to Leesburg in 1998 when she and her husband were looking for a location to start his business. Prior to that, she had a 15-year project management and software engineering career with the Department of Defense and NASA. One of her programs is currently aboard the International Space Station.
“Yes, a little bit of my brain is out there in space,” Shotton said with a smile.
Having grown up with a father in the Air Force, her life was spent traveling. Of Leesburg, she said, “It was nice to come to a place where I could have roots. Leesburg seemed to be the best match for us.”
Shotton and her husband still live in Leesburg, now with three children – one in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school.
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