Compromise has been the key to how Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors has helped the county lead the nation in several surveys and categories over the past four years, Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said in her State of the County address Wednesday night.
In recent years, Loudoun has been named among the the top counties in “The Happiest Places in America” report focused on unemployment rate, poverty rate, affordability ratio, marriage rate, divorce rate, bankruptcy rate, life expectancy and physical activity.
On Jan. 2, 2016, Randall said the road to those honors and other distinctions – including a strong median income and low unemployment – began when members of the Board of Supervisors, for the first time, were sworn-in together.
Randall said that was a signal to Loudoun citizens that the elections were over and the board was committed to working together for all residents.
That tone had to start with Randall, newly elected to the board, and returning supervisor and eventual Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), the chairwoman said.
“During my installation speech, I looked at the supervisor from the Ashburn District and said to him, if you and I can commit to working together during this term, we will be able to accomplish great things for our county and move us onto the national stage,” Randall said. “When I said those words, even I wasn't convinced a Republican man and a Democratic woman could forge not just a working relationship, but eventually a lasting friendship.”
Randall said she questioned how things would work out, but as Buona's term as a supervisor comes to an end in December, Randall said their union should be example for everyone.
“I believe the story of Chair Randall and Vice Chair Buona—Phyllis and Ralph—is a lesson that can be instructive for so many legislators, not just across the commonwealth, but across the country. A lesson of what can happen when legislators at every level put down their egos, put away their pride and focus on the people they represent,” Randall said.
County Administrator Tim Hemstreet, Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer and Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson were among those Randall recognized for Loudoun’s success under the current board’s term.
The chairwoman credited Rizer and staff for bringing in 352 economic wins totaling almost 16,000 jobs and over $1.1 billion in commercial tax revenue to Loudoun during this board’s term. Loudoun’s rural economy also produced over $24 million in transient occupancy tax – a 28 percent increase from fiscal 2016 to the present – with a projected increase of 15 percent more in fiscal 2020.
Additionally, Erickson and Rizer were credited for Loudoun’s newest rural initiative, “Take Loudoun Home,” a program that encourages people to not only visit our rural venues, but to contribute to the rural economy by purchasing locally grown products.
However, one area of concern is the loss of open land, specifically 12,000 acres.
“While we are pleased that our rural economy has generated significant profits, we continue to be concerned that, like the region and the country, Loudoun is losing precious farmland,” Randall said.
Still, Randall said through the efforts of the Economic Development Department and the Rural Economic Development Committee, Loudoun’s rural harvest increased by 5.7 percent. Revenue from Loudoun farm products also increased from $37 million to $44 million, which is a 19 percent increase over the past four years.
The county is continuing its efforts to focus on renewable and sustainable green energy solutions, Randall said. In February, the county received the “SolSmart Silver Designation” from the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference for taking steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of a local solar market.
“With the addition of ‘Solarize Loudoun’ and our new Commercial Property Accessed Clean Energy Program, known as Commercial PACE, Loudoun is focusing more on renewable and sustainable green energy solutions,” Randall said. “I hope that far into the future our youngest citizens will know that we, the community and elected leaders who came before, realized our greatest responsibility was to them, and that we only have one earth to bequeath to those who follow us.”
Woodgrove High School student Colleen Clark sang the national anthem Wednesday, Duke Ellington School of the Arts student Joshua Teague provided two selections on saxophone and American Legion Post 2001 Commander Chuck Loomis led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Randall was introduced by South Region Director of the National Association of Counties Board of Directors Ruby Brabo.
The chairwoman closed by saying, “The state of our county, the state of the best county in the country, is inclusive, vibrant, brilliant, advancing and, yes, the state of Loudoun County is strong. Thank you very much, and I’ll see you all next year.”