Standing at what she cited as a prime example of “smart economic growth,” Leesburg Vice Mayor Kelly Burk stated her case for why she should be the town’s next mayor.
Burk hosted her campaign kickoff Saturday at Crescent Place, a mixed-use development along Harrison Street. She pointed to the project as an example of the kind of development the town needs, one that replaced an old, crumbling factory with an attractive space that meets the needs of current and future residents.
Among the campaign themes expressed by Burk during her stump speech was the need for transparency in government and a commitment to embracing the town’s diversity.
Burk was introduced by County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At-Large) and former Leesburg mayor, and current Leesburg District supervisor, Kristen Umstattd (D).
Randall noted that it was Burk who introduced her for her campaign kickoff for the chairman’s seat almost exactly a year ago. She said she hoped to provide the “same magic”—a campaign victory—for Burk.
Randall said that the Leesburg Town Council “has been interesting” since Umstattd, the town’s mayor from 2002 to 2015, joined the county board. She highlighted the council’s month-long struggle to choose a new mayor, which ended with the selection of Councilman Dave Butler.
“Things did not go quite as smoothly as we’d hoped,” in the transition of leadership on the council, she said. “We have a new mayor that none of us expected. When I heard about what happened [in the controversial mayoral appointment process] I thought, ‘OK, he’ll be [mayor] for eight months and then go home.’”
Burk also said it is a “real shame to see where the council is at this point.”
“There are deals made, secrets kept,” she said.
Burk said she hoped to bring back more of an air of transparency and “open government.” She said Umstattd did that well.
“When someone came and spoke before the council they knew they were being heard. We’re going to bring it back,” she said to cheers and applause.
An almost 40-year resident of the town, Burk said that much has changed since she moved to Leesburg. She has seen the town grow from a population of about 8,000 to now hovering around 50,000 residents. And with that growth has come increased diversity that Burk said the town needs to embrace. She pointed to last year’s creation of the town’s Diversity Commission, an initiative she is proud to have been a part of starting.
In terms of economic growth, Burk said the town needs to be careful of allowing rezonings of property from commercial to residential, and instead find ways to increase the commercial tax base. She said last week’s ordinance changes that will permit alcoholic beverage service on downtown sidewalks, and the ability for downtown visitors to dine street side, should increase economic activity.
Umstattd said she has known Burk for years, both as a dedicated public school teacher and Town Council member. She called Burk “a strong advocate for preservation, the environment and fiscal responsibility,” who has worked with her fellow council members “with compassion and restraint.”
“There is no one better to be mayor of Leesburg,” Umstattd said. “She will be the best mayor we have seen in this town.”
Burk will face former Councilman Kevin Wright on the November ballot. Butler has said he is considering a run for a full two-year term in the mayor’s seat, but has not made a decision.