Election Guide: 10 Vie for Seats in Leesburg

The 2016 Leesburg Town Council races are among the most hotly contested in recent history, and much sets this election cycle apart for the town.

It’s among the most experienced council ballots in terms of government service. Five of the candidates running—Mayor David Butler and mayoral challengers Kelly Burk and Kevin Wright, and council candidates Tom Dunn, Katie Sheldon Hammler and Ken Reid—have almost 50 years of combined council experience. Two candidates—Burk and Reid—are former Leesburg District supervisors.

One familiar name finds itself off the ballot for the first time in decades: Kristen Umstattd. The longtime mayor and council member won election to the Board of Supervisors last fall, so voters will be asked to choose from three candidates to fill her seat. On the ballot are Butler, the council member appointed to take Umstattd’s seat; Burk, the town’s vice mayor, and Wright, a former Town Council member.

But even those who do not have Board of Supervisors or Town Council experience are still well known in the community. All of the council challengers are serving, or have served, on town or county boards or commissions. Some, like Evan Macbeth and Ron Campbell, have been active leaders in citizen engagement efforts, like Educate Don’t Segregate and Faith Has a Voice, respectively. Gwen Pangle and John Hilton are well regarded in the real estate and life insurance industries, respectively, with the former owning her own downtown business.

Although the town elections are to be nonpartisan, party politics has certainly come into play in a year that also hosts the presidential elections. Nine of the 10 candidates for mayor or council sought or received endorsement from either the Loudoun County Democratic Committee or Loudoun County Republican Committee. Hammler was the lone exception. Sample ballots indicating each party’s endorsed slate of candidates are expected to be distributed at the town’s polling places.

Town voters will be asked to select one choice for mayor, and up to three for council seats. Each council member will be elected to a four-year term, while the mayor serves for two years.

Kara C. Rodriguez


Mayor

Vote for One

* incumbent

David S. Butler*

Dave Butler
Dave Butler

Age: 58

Occupation: Information Tech Security Director

Campaign website: www.votedavebutler.com, Dave Butler, Leesburg Mayor (Facebook)

Contact information: dave@votedavebutler.com, 703-395-6524

 

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

Leesburg is a wonderful town. It’s nationally recognized as one of the best places to live (and in my opinion the #1 place to live) in America. Almost everyone I talk with loves Leesburg.

By far the number one concern I hear is about traffic. Too many cars on Rt. 15 (King Street), Rt. 7, and Rt. 9. As long as Northern Virginia continues to create jobs, traffic will be something that we have to manage.

My top priority will be to ensure that we continue to work with the county, state, and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to address our major transportation bottlenecks. These include the completion of Battlefield Parkway, the elimination of the lights on Rt. 7 at Battlefield and Cardinal Park Drive, and an interchange at the bypass and Edwards Ferry Road, removing both lights. Traffic simulations have shown that these projects are the ones that will have the greatest positive impact on our traffic flow. I will also continue to work to find a resolution to the traffic congestion on Rt. 15 North in the evenings. This is a regional and multi-state problem that affects our residents greatly.

We also need to manage our future in Leesburg, maintaining a positive atmosphere of economic growth, while minimizing congestion and the effects on our environment. Attracting larger companies such as Rehau and K2M are doubly positive: They reduce the tax burden on homeowners and provide opportunities to work close to home, reducing the number of people commuting long distances.

 

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

My top priority will be to ensure that we continue to work with the county, state, and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to address our major transportation bottlenecks. These include the completion of Battlefield Parkway, the elimination of the lights on Rt. 7 at Battlefield and Cardinal Park Drive, and an interchange at the bypass and Edwards Ferry Road, removing both lights. Traffic simulations have shown us that these projects are the ones that will have the greatest positive impact on our traffic flow.

We were fortunate to receive $20 million from the NVTA this year for the interchange at Battlefield and Rt. 7. This required a number of meetings with county, state, and regional elected officials. We should be able to receive the rest of the money we need next year and begin the design.

I will also continue to work to find a resolution to the traffic congestion on Rt. 15 North in the evenings.  This is a regional and multi-state problem that affects our residents greatly. While there are no easy answers to this, I am committed to working hard to find one.

I would also like to explore the use of “mini roundabouts”. They are very inexpensive but can improve traffic flow through neighborhoods and on other lower-speed roads. They are also proven to be safer and more environmentally-friendly than other traffic controls such as stop signs and lights.  Leesburg should be a leader in creative traffic control methods such as these.

What’s your budget philosophy?

To me, the Town Council’s budget philosophy should be to provide the services that the town residents want as efficiently as is practical.

Leesburg has the lowest average tax bill of any town in Northern Virginia, and is, by far, the most efficient in its use of government staff of any county, town, or city in the area. Our taxes per capita have decreased over 25 percent since 2007, not even taking inflation into account.

As we continue to mature as a town, there may be services that we, the residents, decide we no longer need; and there may be services that we, the residents, decide we want to add. The Town Council’s priority must be to provide those services at the levels that the town residents are asking for.  For eight years, I’ve championed policies to improve our quality of life and move Leesburg forward. I will continue to do that.

As we all pay Loudoun County real estate taxes, we should also look at services that the town now provides that could be borne by Loudoun County. Two current examples under discussion are the Balch Library and fire and rescue. These discussions do have the potential to reduce our tax burden within the town, but I will not accept any resolution that reduces the services that we now enjoy.  I don’t know where these discussions will end up, but exploring all options is the best way to stay efficient in how the town spends your money.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

Almost everyone in Leesburg appreciates our historic downtown. I’ve even talked with residents that never come downtown, but love the fact that we have one. Ensuring that downtown stays vibrant and active is vital for Leesburg’s future.  Ways that local government can help include:

  • (1) Maximizing traffic flow for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians via sidewalks, parking, and crosswalks.  The easier it is to get downtown, and to move around once you’re there, the more likely it is that you will visit. Having a parking garage that is inexpensive and easy to get into and out of is just one example.
  • (2) Providing tax incentives that help to attract the retail and restaurants that our residents want.  Leesburg has an Arts & Cultural District. However, the current incentives that we’ve put in place are too small to attract the number of new businesses that we would like. We can do more.
  • (3) Creating amenities, such as parks and activities, that will draw people downtown.  For example, more “kid friendly” activities and restaurants would attract more families, especially those with younger children. Many people come downtown during special events. Attracting or creating a permanent venue such as a performing arts theater would bring people downtown more often.
  • (4) Encouraging “urban infill,” that is, residential properties in close proximity to downtown, to provide additional customers within walking distance. Per downtown planners, this is the number one way to keep our downtown vibrant.  The recent addition of Crescent Place should have a very positive effect.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

As long as Northern Virginia continues to create jobs, growth will occur.

At times, we have grown rather indiscriminately. While growth may provide significant funding from developers to the local area, it can also create sprawl as well as economic and environmental challenges when not managed properly.

Shutting down growth creates its own problems. The congestion we see on Rts. 15, 7, and 9 is primarily caused by people traveling from Maryland, West Virginia, and Clarke and Frederick counties to work in Fairfax, Arlington, or DC, traveling through Leesburg. A philosophy of no growth will significantly exacerbate this problem, and cause us to spend our tax dollars on road widenings and other solutions that could disrupt our landscape and have other ill effects.

I have long advocated a philosophy of “urban infill” creating mixed-use developments like Crescent Place. These housing types are attractive to retirees and millennials, and the close-by retail and restaurants provide places to easily walk or bicycle to. The environmental impact is much smaller than with your typical sprawl. And while these developments do create more traffic “trips”, the trips are much shorter and so have less impact.  In addition, more customers mean healthier restaurants and retail.

Attracting larger companies such as Rehau and K2M is the best commercial development as they are doubly positive:  They reduce our tax burden on homeowners and provide opportunities to work close to home, reducing the number of people commuting long distances.

 

Kelly Burk

Kelly Burk
Kelly Burk

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired Loudoun County teacher

Campaign website: kellyburkformayor.com, Kelly Burk, Leesburg (Facebook)

Contact Information: KellyBurk2011@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

  • Economic commercial growth and Development and support for our small business development.  Business growth is key to maintaining a vibrant and exciting town with a reasonable tax rate.  When a town has a strong business component that is supported with sensible regulations plus reliable and consistent governance, residents can enjoy a lower tax rate. Our historic downtown is unique and an economic draw but we need to create flexible requirements that allow business owners to adapt to changing models. I will work to make Leesburg an arts hub where people can enjoy the historic aspect of the town along with the artistic elements.
  • Open, honest and fair government procedures. Lately, there has developed a public perception of mistrust and lack of decorum at council meetings. I am committed to changing that perception by bringing civility and transparency back into the process of governance. I put forth a motion to record all the council votes on individual issues. I am working to make the Town Council business ethical, open and fair. I support the residents’ input and their right to be informed.
  • A budget that is effective and productive while maintaining a tax rate that citizens can afford. The budget needs to support the services that residents expect and deserve. I will work to make sure town services are reviewed for efficiencies, such as cross training, so that staff can do different jobs and that town funds are being spent with an eye on what the town residents need and expect.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

Most of the town’s funds for large projects come from other sources, such as NVTA (Northern Virginia Transit Authority) Richmond, and/or the county. Those projects include fixing Battlefield and Rt. 7, Edwards Ferry and Rt. 15, and Battlefield and Rt. 15. At the request of the town, the county has done a study to determine ways to relieve traffic on Rt. 15 North. That study was recently completed and will be shared with the council in the near future. In this study will be recommendations that will help with the flow of Rt. 15 traffic going north.

Working with the county elected officials is an important aspect to soliciting support for our transportation needs; this requires strong relationships between the town and the county. I have developed those relationships with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation while serving as Leesburg supervisor in years past.

For local transportation projects, we need innovative new ideas to stretch our funding, such as converting some streets to one way, partnering with HOAs to complete some walkways, creating accessible bike trails as a transportation alternative, and supporting more mass transit opportunities.

We need to comprehensively study the town’s sidewalks and then prioritize those needs.  Along with that study we need to identify crosswalk locations to ensure safe crossing on dangerous streets.

As mayor I will call for citizens’ input on ideas relating to transportation from walking to motoring.

What is your budget philosophy?

My philosophy has always been to be cautious with the citizens’ money. Efficiency and productivity are important elements to making any budget fair to the taxpayer. I always ask the following questions: Is the budgeted money being used to serve the needs of the residents? Has the public been allowed to review the proposed budget? Have they been given the chance to voice their concerns and ideas to the Town Council?

Since Leesburg taxpayers pay both county and town taxes is it important that the budget reflects what is needed for the town services to ensure that town residents have a quality of life that makes it worth living in Leesburg.

The budget should reflect the expectations and needs of the residents while always keeping in mind those residents for whom the tax rate will have the most impact, including people living on fixed incomes or those who struggle to meet the daily needs of their families. I want the budget to serve the public’s needs while keeping in mind the diversity and varying levels of income of our population. For Leesburg to be a desirable location to live we need that diversity and I don’t want to tax anyone out of the town.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

Downtown Leesburg is the heart of the town. Having a strong downtown benefits all the other businesses in town. The government should ensure that the infrastructure is in good working order.  The council needs to reassess the regulations making renovations and improvements of our old buildings easier. The government needs to enforce present zoning ordinances. Further, we should continue to maintain our clean streets with regular trash pick-up.

The town should work with Visit Loudoun to explore new ideas that will bring tourists to the historic downtown. We should help the local business associations with ideas and advice and listen to local businesses to create reasonable, reliable and consistent regulations.

The town needs to reassess the role of the Economic Development Department. A strong effective EDD could attract more businesses to Leesburg. The council needs to agree on the direction of the EDD, and then assist the department in helping small businesses with education opportunities on the best practices to attract and maintain customers.

The downtown needs to develop into the hub for arts and entertainment.  The town needs to support a more active Arts & Cultural District by employing stronger incentives.  As Leesburg continues to grow, there needs to be a focus on downtown as the center of both visual and performing arts and fairs. If the downtown is active and vibrant all businesses in town will benefit.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

Growth is an important element to every town and Leesburg is no exception. However, that does not mean that all development is good. The town needs to set high expectations for potential development.

The role of the developer is to make as much money as possible for themselves and their investors but the role of the Town Council is to ensure that the residents are getting the best development for the specific location. This creates a natural contention.

Often the developer uses proffers to make the development attractive to council members but that does not cover the costs of the impacts to the residents who already live in town. We need to make sure development opportunities are taken advantage of without impact to the existing town taxpayer.  I will continue to send the message that Leesburg is delighted to continue to grow but the town will not accept development consequences that are not the best for the residents of Leesburg.

Kevin D. Wright

Kevin Wright
Kevin Wright

Age: 43

Occupation: Delivery Manager

Campaign website: wrightforleesburg.com, Kevin D. Wright – Leesburg, VA (Facebook)

Contact information: kevin@wrightforleesburg.com

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

In talking with many residents of Leesburg these last months, I have heard the same common concerns. Traffic, reasonable taxes, adequate delivery of public services, and public safety are at the top of the list. I agree with these concerns. Also, there is real frustration regarding the division, partisanship, and indecision on the current Town Council. If elected mayor, I will set a different tone, set a different expectation of council, and encourage a different atmosphere. My vision for Leesburg is that we continue to have a vibrant community that preserves its unique sense of place and character, provides for a stable future and responsible fiscal management, addresses our transportation challenges, and is a safe and welcoming home for our families. A place where our children can thrive, residents can feel safe in their homes, and businesses can flourish. I will also focus on creating an open relationship with the public that is engaged, approachable, where everyone is kept informed on the issues before the town. We have a good, professional, town government but there are areas we can improve. One of those areas is building a more cooperative partnership with county and state leaders to work jointly for our shared interests and challenges. To accomplish all of this will take focus, energy and a willingness to listen. It will need leadership from the top. I feel I can be that leader.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

We all want to be able to get home to our families in a safe and timely manner. We want to spend more time with the people that matter and less time looking at brake lights. The town’s top transportation problems are the many gaps in our transportation network. Such as Battlefield Parkway from the Greenway to South King Street, the interchange at Battlefield Parkway at Rt. 7, the interchange at Edwards Ferry Road and the Rt. 15 Bypass, and the constant traffic jams on Rt. 15 North heading out of Leesburg that are impacting Rt. 15, the Rt. 15 Bypass, and Battlefield Parkway in Leesburg.  To address these challenges requires a constant focus and ongoing effort to secure funding and get these projects built. The extension of Battlefield Parkway from the Greenway to the South King Street connection should have started construction two years ago. But the current Town Council allowed the project to be held up by delays and therefore the project is still waiting to break ground. We must have a regular review of project status, next steps, and funding needs to ensure these projects stay on track and allow residents to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families. With Leesburg’s location at the crossroads of Rt. 15 and Rt. 7 we will always face regional transportation pressures and must therefore work in partnership with state, county, federal, and regional governments to develop solutions and provide funding for these regional transportation needs.

What’s your budget philosophy?

My guiding principle is that this is the people’s money, not the government’s. Having a fiscally responsible and sustainable budget is about being good stewards of your money. So that you can have the confidence to take that family vacation, put extra money in the college fund, or invest in your business because you don’t have to worry about dramatic swings in your tax bill. This is why I feel it is the council’s responsibility to review the budget from the basis of the impact on your tax bill and start our budget deliberations from the “equalized tax rate”, that rate where the average tax bill remains the same, and make decisions based on the impact to the tax bill. We must take a long-term view on budget and spending looking forward to ensure we are running the finances of the town in a fiscally sustainable manner. In the past I have sometimes been criticized for the detailed review I take when looking at the town budget. But a budget is full of details. It is council’s responsibility to have a clear understanding of what is in the budget we are adopting, have we addressed challenges, and can we clearly tell you how your government is spending your money. We also must be more proactive about tracking our revenues. If elected I plan to have a regular review of our economic indicators and how we are growing our commercial tax base to lower the overall tax burden in town.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

When residents tell me what they love about Leesburg, downtown is always part of that conversation. We have a community of dedicated business and property owners that make up downtown Leesburg. As government leaders we must recognize it is our businesspeople, not government officials, that build a thriving business community. The role of government in downtown, and throughout town, is to provide proper and adequate public facilities to “meet the businesses at the street” to provide them an environment where they can succeed. The town government and our downtown businesses are in a symbiotic relationship as the town is responsible for public infrastructure such as parking, street maintenance, and park maintenance. We need to offer support where we can. Not every solution should require throwing money at it. We also need to ensure that our regulations are fair, reasonable, and serve the public good and are not just there to create roadblocks. We must treat our businesses fairly and all play by the same set of rules with our regulatory process being transparent, consistent, and predictable. As leaders we also must be responsible in how we communicate about downtown. I do feel that we all could provide more positive public relations about all the vibrant and interesting businesses and restaurants there are in our downtown.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

Leesburg has had mixed results in managing growth, and missed opportunities in addressing the challenges that growth brings. The frustration and banter between the town and county on the recent courthouse expansion could and should have been avoided. For example, prior to leaving Town Council in 2014, I suggested a stakeholder group be established between the town and the county to work through the courthouse expansion. This would have provided a forum to work through design and zoning issues in partnership. Instead the development review was processed at arm’s length and the major issues like the demolition of the country-owned homes on Edwards Ferry Road and the density of the parking structure seemed to come to the council as a surprise and at the late stage of the process became a take-it or leave-it discussion rather than working collaboratively to address the challenges. The council has too often taken a wait-and-see, or arms-length approach to understanding what may be coming. This was especially true in the resistance to annexing land in our planned urban growth area, for fear this would bring development.  The reality is that development came anyway and we now have a Super Walmart approved just outside the town limits by the airport. Leesburg will bear the traffic burden and the Loudoun County will get the tax revenue. Why? Because we were not proactive in managing and controlling our destiny when it comes to managing growth and its impact on our neighborhoods.


Town Council

Choose Three

Ronald E. “Ron” Campbell

Ron Campbell
Ron Campbell

Age: 63

Occupation: President/CEO, College Business Concepts

Campaign website: www.electroncampbell.com, Elect Ron Campbell (Facebook)

Contact information: 703-728-3965

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

My top priorities align with what I have heard from my many interactions with different members of our town and my involvement in the community. One of the top things is the desire for effective leadership and a more civil and collaborative working relationship among Town Council members. I bring a record of strong leadership and administrative experience along with the ability to develop collaborative relationships.

I will work to attract new businesses to Leesburg that support the town’s need for retail and commercial businesses to stimulate economic development and bring jobs.

I will work to support our town manager to identify ways to improve the operation of town services.

A top priority is to deliver a fiscally responsible town budget that eliminates inefficiencies and makes great use of tax dollars. I will develop a budget process that will identify operational priorities and revenue projections for the next two-year fiscal budget.

The town’s advocacy relationship with the School Board and with the Board of Supervisors must be improved. We cannot expect support for roads, schools, or other human services without a positive healthy relationship.

Transportation and roads are high on the priority list and the town must improve its own planning process in order to have the necessary funds approved and deliver timely results to bring relief to overcrowded roads.

Leesburg is a great place to live, work and play. All these good things however can be negatively impacted if we don’t have effective leadership working together.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

Improper planning and lack of strategic support from state and county officials are the items that can stop or delay a road project. The growth of the town and surrounding communities combined with poor decision-making have caused our current traffic conditions. The impact of the new residential developments on our roads over the past 10 years could have been anticipated sooner to make sure we were ahead of the curve on delivering relief. We are currently behind the curve again and must work quickly to identify what challenges lie ahead for the next 10 years.

I propose to lead a transportation impact study and create a planning timeline that will include all anticipated commercial and residential projects over the next 10 years. Leesburg is already facing funding delays and planning challenges for the major interchange at Battlefield Pkwy and Rt. 7. It is very probable that this interchange will not be completed until 2021, a full three years after the completion of the interchanges at Ashburn Parkway and Belmont Ridge Road on Rt. 7. The residents of Leesburg will be the most affected for over three years until the Battlefield interchange is completed. Now is the time to start incorporating a new planning process and work to understand our ability to bring solutions to our long-term road maintenance and transportation challenges.

What’s your budget philosophy?

I believe that budgets are planning documents that should be given careful consideration from many stakeholders. The budget process can be designed to be instructive to the community about the sources of revenue, spending priorities, and what benefits are gained from new investments. I strongly believe in uncovering inefficiencies in operations and finding new revenue sources that can be leveraged to support new budget initiatives. I do not believe that tax increases should be used to cover budget gaps and keeping taxes low is a high priority. The budget is one of the most important Town Council responsibilities and it must reflect the goals and objectives of our collective vision for town operations, investments in town personnel, capital investments, and in the programs and services to support all the residents of Leesburg. Leesburg residents pay property taxes to the county and the town – I will work to make sure that your double tax dollars are leveraged to support the programs and services that provide the highest value. A transparent budget process working with all stakeholders will allow the town to better prioritize services and focus on the capital and road improvements that make the greatest difference to town residents.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

The Town Council has a responsibility to work with property owners and current business owners to develop a strategic vision for downtown. There has to be a mutual partnership created between the town and property/business owners that will provide incentives to work together. Business and property owners are helping the town achieve the goal of a vibrant downtown and the town must work to create partnerships between all stakeholders to attract new businesses and keep the current businesses. Government can provide direction and leadership to improve the communication among all stakeholders and find ways to overcome any identified barriers to growth. Government can also make capital investments to improve streets, lighting and parking, that make it easier for residents and visitors to shop and dine.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

I don’t think the current Town Council has managed growth well. One of the greatest responsibilities of any Town Council is planning for land use development and approving changes in zoning policies that impact the ability of developers to deliver commercial and residential projects.

The Town Council must develop a better strategic planning process and use best practices for the planning of commercial and residential development. I would work to conduct research studies to better understand future retail and housing needs. We must share with our developers our vision for commercial and residential projects. As each new project is brought before the Town Council for consideration, developers would know in advance the approval criteria and deliver projects that are in the best interest of all concerned. The town cannot continue to approve projects where all impacts have not been considered or the future financial success of the project has not been properly analyzed.

 

Thomas S. “Tom” Dunn, II*

Tom Dunn
Tom Dunn

Age: 55

Occupation: Finance Marketing

Campaign website: ElectDunn.org, Tom Dunn – Leesburg Town Council (Facebook)

Contact information: 703-801-0377, Tshelbydun@msn.com

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

With 17 years’ service to the you the citizens of Leesburg I know who to call and how to get what you need done. When your sidewalk needs to be fixed, or your street did not get plowed, or you want assurance that a council vote stays the way you want it and not flip, or a big-box store is causing noise issues, or you have a standing water problem or your water bill does not look right, who do you call? I get those calls and your priority becomes my priority. Political parties don’t fix sidewalks or do any of what I mentioned. I ask you to look past political party or even those who claim no party. The services you enjoy such as clean water, safe streets, trash and brush pickup, nice parks, new businesses coming to town, transportation improvements, lower tax and water rates, and more will continue to be my top priorities. But anyone can make claims to priorities. I have a strong record of voting for what I have heard the citizens want. There are candidates who have never voted for what they will claim or made claims and voted the opposite. I opposed sprawl, I voted down every increased density development. I have always voted for lower water and tax rates and still provide the services you want.  I have a record of citizens knowing I will work for them and my word is my bond.

 

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

It is not always about getting money. For example, Rt. 15 North and Battlefield Parkway is highly congested.  Staff wanted to do a $16,000 study of the intersection. I asked how much does a sign cost and was told $300. So I said let’s put up a “No Turn on Red” sign. Congestion improved. Then I suggested no through trucks on Battlefield. Congestion improved. Then I suggested “No U-Turn” sign at Battlefield and Fieldstone. Congestion improved.  We still have some work to do here but for less than a couple thousand dollars the congestion problem is improving.

Getting the funds needed to build an effective road network. We have to have a council that holds town staff responsible. Unfortunately, there are some on council who through their political ideology don’t want to question government employees. I see my role as policy setter and oversight.  I mention this because I just spoke to someone last week who spoke to a state official and mentioned that the town staff did not request the proper amount to fund a needed road and are $8 million short. This can’t happen. So it is ensuring funds from all available sources are properly and timely sought, and obtained.

What’s your budget philosophy?

The town government is overtaxing its citizens. Everyone’s taxes could be lowered and still provide the same or better services. The Balch Library is for research and only serves about 20 people a day. This could be by appointment and thus not needing as many staffers or use of overhead. This would still provide service to those who actually use this wonderful resource. Our brush pick-up has town staff driving around looking for work whether there is brush pick up needs or not. They drive every street in town looking and looking until they stumble upon a need. This could be managed more effectively in so many ways and still provide this service. These are just a couple of examples. We have had staffers demoted for poor performance yet not reduce their pay grade to the level of work they were preforming. Every year council and staff talk of an equalized tax rate in order to meet our financial goals. These are nice goals but do not directly help the citizens. And we end up overtaxing. The town sets goals of paying off debt and saving extra money. But when the over-tax is collected these goals seem to be forgotten and everyone looks to spend the extra money. I feel that we should be tighter in our needs estimates and rather then look to spend overage we should add to meeting our goals. Lastly, we must get our county dollars working better for us in town.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

I have suggested grants to put in place to help buildings look as good as they can be.  This does not have to be taxpayer money either. The government can help property owners secure these grants from various sources. And we would all benefit. We need to ensure that our historic downtown is preserved. I am the only candidate who opposed the county building a four-level parking structure in people’s backyards near our downtown. I am the only candidate opposed to the destruction by the county of historic homes in our downtown. I am the only candidate to vote against historic buildings being altered with non-historic additions. History cannot be recreated; it can only be preserved.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

We have used a Town Plan that needs to be updated and brought in line with realistic goals not just what we hope could happen. We have added almost 15,000 people to Leesburg over the last 10 years but have added only 1,000 homes. I am not suggesting more homes are needed. But we have overcrowding in some areas of town. We have regulations that allow other family members to live in a single-family unit or home. However, our home growth does not match our population growth. Thus we have many instances where it seems multiple families who may not be related are living in single-family dwellings. This is causing a strain on our limited resources and infrastructure. We need to ensure that property owners are aware of the regulations and helping the town as a whole by adhering to those regulations.

 

Katie Sheldon Hamler
Katie Sheldon Hammler

Katie Sheldon Hammler*

Age: 50

Occupation: High-tech marketing professional, Army veteran

Campaign website: katiehammler.com,

Contact information: Katie@KatieHammler.com, 571-228-9515

 

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

My priority, if I am honored to be re-elected to a fourth term, is to continue council’s great track record of success. I hear from so many Leesburg residents that it’s refreshing to see a government that works. Leesburg is the best town in America, according to Forbes and CNN Money. We are one of the most financially-sound municipalities with a rare AAA rating, which we achieved through sound long-term budget planning. We have one of the lowest tax rates amongst our peers – $200 to $400 less. My priorities are continued homeowner affordability, more transportation successes, and tackling several tough “quality of life” issues. First, Leesburg faces a continuation of our “fiscal budget cliff”—balloon debt payments. I will not support adding major new locally funded projects to our CIP. We are also anticipating a $475,000 loss in state funding for road maintenance. I will work diligently to restore this by leveraging my role as president-elect of the Virginia Municipal League. Second, we must complete the Rt. 7/Battlefield interchange and fix the Rt. 15 North bypass gridlock by securing funding from NVTA and other sources. Third, I will work to bring a coalition of partners together to find a creative solution to save Ida Lee Park from sprawling by-right residential development on the 40 adjacent acres, which would destroy the passive section of the park. I recently initiated addressing Leesburg’s overcrowding problem. Council will receive a full report so we can take action to enforce our zoning ordinances.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

The Leesburg council has worked effectively through public-private partnerships to achieve significant transportation projects during my 12 years, and we will continue this successful track record to keep making progress. We have constructed all but one segment of Battlefield Parkway, with the final section from South King Street to Evergreen Mill Road underway. We completed the Crosstrail Boulevard $25 million interchange by approving, on a tight 4-3 vote, the Village at Leesburg  project, which I supported. We also constructed Russell Branch Parkway, the Sycolin flyover, the Rt. 7 climbing lane, and widened Rt. 15.

Yet, we have major transportation projects that will require experienced council members to help to achieve. We must construct the Rt. 7/Battlefield interchange. An estimated $25 million is still needed. The town will pursue additional funding from NVTA and VDOT. Removing this stoplight will significantly improve the flow of east-west traffic.

Council must also address the Rt. 15 North bypass from Fort Evans to Battlefield Parkway gridlock, which is a result of cut-through traffic. This will require dedicated financial and project support from Loudoun County and neighboring states to fund a traffic circle at White’s Ferry Road, as well as other improvements. I would not support Leesburg taxpayers footing this bill as the problem is caused by cut-through, non-Leesburg drivers.

I will leverage my role as president-elect of the Virginia Municipal League to effectively lobby the state for transportation funding. This is one of VML’s top priorities, and it aligns with Leesburg’s most pressing need.

What’s your budget philosophy?

My budget philosophy is to keep Leesburg’s citizens’ residential taxes low while providing excellent municipal services. I believe in fiscal restraint, long-term financial sustainability, and organizational efficiency. Leesburg has one of the lowest town tax rates amongst our peers, $200 to $400 less, than Vienna, Herndon, Blacksburg, or Purcellville. We are also one of the most financially sound municipalities in the country, having achieved a rare AAA rating which we achieved through sound long-term budget planning.

I am proud that council prepared for the projected $2.4 million “fiscal cliff.” Starting back in 2012, council reserved an undesignated fund balance to cover this anticipated increase in debt service which averted a 5-cent tax increase.

During my 12 years representing Leesburg taxpayers, I have championed quality commercial development to increase revenue. We have achieved many successes, such as approving the Wegmans/Village at Leesburg and K2M projects which generate millions of dollars, and which have created hundreds of new jobs close to home. Additionally, one of the biggest impacts on Leesburg’s budget are the laws at the state level that impose unfunded mandates and expensive regulations, or which limit funds of state-level responsibility. I will leverage my historic first role as president-elect of the Virginia Municipal League to protect Leesburg taxpayers, for it is only by working collaboratively with all municipalities that we can achieve our collective goals.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

The role of the town government to help Leesburg’s historic downtown, our “crown jewel,” is to fund select capital projects and programs to spur the generation of tax revenue and private investment, as well as to support public-private partnerships. Leesburg’s historic downtown is thriving which is the result of years of research, planning, and then taking bold steps to improve it.

Council approved improving walkways and lighting, adding crosswalks, widening the sidewalk and adding street trees. Council also approved downtown initiatives including “Downtown as a Park” maintenance funding, and Arts & Cultural District marketing and programming. The town continues to implement elements of the parking improvement plan, such as renting additional spaces where we most need them near Market Station. The town also successfully implemented a partnership with George Mason University and Loudoun County to locate the Mason Enterprise Center in our downtown.  This has created hundreds of new companies and jobs, and fostered a palpable, energetic, entrepreneurial spirit and culture.  The town is also responsible for supporting a regulatory process that is predictable, measurable and time-bound.  Leesburg has successfully promoted public/private partnerships for downtown programs and initiatives, such as the LDBA’s First Fridays, which brings thousands of visitors to dine and to enjoy our authentic historic charm. The council also supported and approved the expansion of the Loudoun County Courthouse.  For years, there was uncertainty about its relocation and the potential consequences for the historic downtown that would have significantly impacted the downtown’s ability to remain competitive.

How well has the town managed growth and what would you do differently?

Leesburg is the county seat of one of the fastest growing counties in the country, and is now the largest town in the state of Virginia, with a population of over 50,000. Leesburg is nationally recognized as one of the best towns in the country, and we are financially strong, so we have arguably managed our growth effectively despite the limitations imposed on us in a Dillon Rule state. During my 12 years on council, I consistently voted against sprawling residential re-zonings such as J.R. Festival Lakes, to avoid the congestion of our roads and schools. However, there have been impacts to Leesburg that council has not been able to adequately control, such as the growth of housing in Loudoun County and neighboring states. We see the direct impacts such as the cut-through traffic gridlock on Rt. 15 North. This will require dedicated financial and project support from Loudoun County and neighboring states to fund a traffic circle at White’s Ferry Road, as well as other improvements. I would not support Leesburg taxpayers footing this bill as the problem is caused by cut-through non-Leesburg drivers. The town has also recently had numerous requests to institute residential permit parking, which is symptom of a more fundamental issue of overcrowding of the apartment complexes on Fort Evans and Plaza Street. This is a violation of our town ordinances. I recently brought up under new business a full staff report on the resources the town will need to properly enforce our zoning laws.

John Hilton

John Hilton
John Hilton

Age: 49

Occupation: Life insurance and financial services

Campaign Website: John Hilton for Leesburg Town Council (Facebook)

Contact Information: John.Hilton67@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

Public safety, a balanced approach toward land use and traffic reduction.

Because Leesburg has its own police department, every council member’s most basic duty is public safety. Protecting the public and keeping Leesburg’s citizens safe is the prime function of town government. This goal is realized by working with our new chief of police to ensure the department has all of the resources it needs to serve and protect our town, and for council to give its unequivocal support, affection and respect for every police officer in Leesburg, at all times.

The issue of land use and development consumes much of the Town Council’s time and labor. It affects nearly every aspect of life here in Leesburg. It also affects the character of our town. Leesburg is a large town that lives and feels like a small town. We must never put that character at risk with unwise land use decisions. In recent years, the council has approved many highly dense residential projects which threatens the balance needed to preserve Leesburg as we love it. An emphasis on commercial projects and low density, low impact residential development will shift more of the tax burden from the homeowner to commercial properties, make it possible for our town to achieve its environmental goals, and halt the oppressive increase in traffic.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

I am opposed to both the idea of Metro coming to Leesburg and extending the Greenway any further. I was also very disappointed that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against our county and its residents in attempting to reduce the quite excessive toll prices.

The county and state have the power to regulate traffic patterns and road construction, the Town Council very little control. Where the town does have some power is in the area of land use and development, which is where I would focus.  If the current council policies in favor of high density residential projects continues, traffic is certain to increase with alarming intensity. If elected I will do all I can to relieve the citizens of Leesburg of our unnecessarily oppressive traffic congestion.

What’s your budget philosophy?

In three words: Necessities before niceties! As a Town Council member, I would be spending the taxpayers’ money, not the government’s money. Spending wisely is thus a moral duty. Believing in good government and high quality services as I do, the issue is one of priorities. For example, the Police Department and the Department of Public Works and Capital Projects represent two basic functions of government. I would make certain that these departments and all other essential town departments are properly staffed, town staff properly compensated, and are given the funds they need to serve Leesburg residents as they are entitled to be served.

I favor doing what we can do improve the aesthetics in the historic downtown, am a supporter of public art and public parks, and protecting our environment and natural resources. I would, of course, seek to achieve these goals in a climate of low taxes on both residents and businesses.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

The historic downtown will not survive in the manner we wish unless it contains businesses that are successful in their own right. We are fortunate to have fine restaurants, as well as wine, antique and other specialty shops. Going forward, we need more variety such as luxury clothing stores to serve all of the professionals with offices downtown. I am sure our town Economic Development Department and commission would agree that we must make attracting specific types of businesses top priority. Parking is another challenge as well. People in general will not come downtown to shop and dine unless we make it easy for them to drive in and park their vehicles conveniently. Street parking must be maintained, and if necessary more free parking lots.

Additionally, the town needs to enforce the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) standards with greater strength. The beauty of the downtown is nearly as essential as its commerce, and many of the historic buildings require better upkeep.

How well has the town managed growth and what would you do differently?

The current Town Council needs some improvement in this area. Our Town Plan calls for low density and low impact housing developments, yet the council, often against the advice of our Planning Commission, has approved much high density and high impact development which has made traffic all the worse in Leesburg.  Aesthetically, the 2 over 2 condos rapidly being built (which some incorrectly refer to as stacked townhouses) cannot represent the future of Leesburg for anyone who believes, as I do, that Leesburg is a large town that lives and feels like a small town, and that all of council’s votes on land use projects should reflect that principle. Currently, the tax burden is around 25 percent for commercial, 75 percent for residential. I would like to bring the commercial numbers up above 50 percent and lighten the tax burden for homeowners. This would relieve the town of the ever-growing demand for more services and would stall the increase in traffic.

The town has done an excellent job with our parks, bike trails and brick walkways. We need to do more in this area to maintain the beauty of our town in the months and years to come. Leesburg is a truly exceptional place in which to live, especially compared to Northern Virginia as a whole. That uniqueness must be protected by our town government.

Evan Macbeth

Evan Macbeth
Evan Macbeth

Age: 41

Occupation: Software Support and Development Manager

Campaign website: www.macbethforleesburg.com

Contact information: evan@macbethforleesburg.com

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

Fixing the traffic on the bypass. This will involve working closely with the county and VDOT to mitigate the causes of that traffic, including reasonable solutions to address the bottlenecks north of town at Whites Ferry and Lucketts. Similarly, the town needs to expedite, to the extent it can be done responsibly, the design and implementation of the proposed interchange on the bypass that would replace the lights at Edwards Ferry and Ft. Evans and provide bike and pedestrian passage from east to west.

Our town also has a housing gap. Because we are a fantastic destination for arts, entertainment, and raising a family, it has become increasingly difficult for young professionals to find reasonable cost-effective housing here in town. When they decide to live elsewhere, Leesburg misses a great opportunity to strengthen our community. To address this, we can prioritize development applications that address this need.

Finally, Leesburg needs to balance its tax base. The vast majority of our revenues come from residential taxes. We can, and should, seek to increase our commercial and non-residential tax base to ensure that Leesburg remains a cost-effective place to live and work. Leesburg is doing a great job attracting new businesses, we should examine what we’re doing right, and ensure we sustain that success. One option would be a regular survey of new businesses in town, which can be used to understand why they chose Leesburg, and what the town can and should be doing to partner with them to succeed further.

What’s your budget philosophy?

I believe we start from needs and long-term planning, and establish a baseline budget framework from there. Then, we examine the revenue we can expect, and the set of funding options available to meet the baseline budget. This is the point at which public input becomes critical as the council seeks to balance the needs-based budget framework with the revenue we can expect. Leesburg residents will need to tell the council how they prefer to address any gaps that arise, and the council should take that into serious consideration in their final budget votes.

 

Gwen Pangle

Gwen Pangle
Gwen Pangle

Age: 59

Occupation: CEO Pangle & Associates, Realtors, Retired RN

Campaign Website: www.pangleforcouncil.com

Contact Information: gwen@pangleforcouncil.com

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

  • Facilitation of a Council who treats each other with respect, on and off the dais.
  • Policies that support Leesburg businesses and our Historic downtown in particular.
  • Continue to promote art, music, culture and a night time economy as a means to bolster economic development in Leesburg
  • Support forward thinking policies that look beyond current problem solving ideas into the future potential ideas that would address the issues.
  • Health; mental and physical; safety and education.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

This is, and will be, an ongoing issue that requires collaboration with the county and state along with an aggressive focus and funding strategy. It won’t be solved overnight, so the vision must be well thought out and communicated to the public.  I am glad for the approval of the flyovers that make Rt. 7 a non-stop highway from beyond Leesburg to Tysons, so traffic won’t be backing up into Leesburg.  Rt. 15 bypass at Edwards Ferry headed north is a big problem and must be a priority for all of us.

What’s your budget philosophy?

Look at it frequently to see if we are on track and in line with the vision for our town. Cut waste and add efficiencies. Make sure we are supporting staff so that they can be effective in the work we are asking them to do. Make sure there is clarity about that vision to the residents, builders, developers, business owners, building owners, etc., so that we don’t waste time and money being redundant and inefficient in our development approval processes.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

Business owners have the largest responsibility to do what they can to build a strong and successful business. Government should operate in a business-friendly way so as to facilitate opening a business in downtown and support the growth of that business by optimizing opportunities to increase foot traffic via residents in town, visitors to town, events, and marketing and branding to position our town as an historic, main street town with destination appeal.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

Growth is going to happen around us by virtue of where we are located in the US and we should be glad of it. Growth is healthy and the normal order of things. Utilizing the opportunities that come along with growth is a key element that requires vision and strong leadership. Start with a clear vision for what we want to be as a town, then ask the question of anyone who comes to us suggesting a change, “How does this fit into our vision?” If it does, and concessions are required, “what are you willing to give up to get it?”

We can and should build bridges into the surrounding area and be a part of the conversation and decision making. We should have strong leadership with an insightful vision for the growth of our town, and the preservation and enhancement of our history and charm, as they are a strong factor in attracting people to our area to visit and to live.

I believe our current Planning Commission and council have done a decent job with the constraints of the language guidelines before them. I am not as happy with the length of time it takes to move projects forward. I believe “time is money” and we waste our taxpayers’ money when we require years and dozens of revisions before a project can commence. The cost of time spent is ultimately passed on to the consumer through higher housing costs and what we get is less affordable housing.

 

Kenneth D. “Ken” Reid

Ken Reid
Ken Reid

Age: 58

Occupation: Publisher

Campaign website: www.KenReid.org, Facebook: KenReidLeesburg

Contact information: LeesburgReid@FDAINFO.com, 703-779-8777

 

 

 

 

What are your top priorities if elected?

People I speak with love Leesburg and want to keep it a wonderful community. They are very pleased with my 12-year record on council, the Board of Supervisors and as a town/county commission member in achieving this. However, we must address congestion on U.S. 15 to Maryland; ensure we get funds to replace traffic lights on the Leesburg Bypass and Rt. 7 with interchanges to move traffic; and ensure we get our due from the county and state. We must give Leesburg Police the proper resources to keep crime and gangs out of our community, too. Keeping residential taxes low and government efficient are critical. So, getting more business downtown is important in helping grow our commercial tax base, but we also need council members not afraid to scrutinize spending.

How do you propose to solve the town’s top transportation problems?

I have been at the forefront of most of the transportation improvements we now enjoy in Leesburg (i.e., paving Sycolin Road to Ashburn, completion of Battlefield Parkway, opening Miller Drive to Battlefield, and jump-starting interchanges at Edwards Ferry Road/bypass and Rt. 7 and Battlefield). The big congestion issue in Leesburg now is at Battlefield and the bypass and unclogging U.S 15 to Maryland, which I intend to work on extensively if elected. Sycolin will need extra lanes it seems. As for growth, I have opposed applications for some 1,500 homes in the Leesburg area since 2006, including the Meadowbrook project now rising on South King Street and former Crescent Parke project.  But downtown could be more viable with more millennials and retirees living downtown, thus not burdening our schools. I oppose raising property taxes without examining areas to cut, but our revenue is flat, so adding a better retail mix downtown can help with our revenue needs and keep residential taxes low.

What’s your budget philosophy?

The council this year failed to hold constructive budget sessions and hearings – waiting until April. We need better outreach to the community, input from boards and commissions, but also council members unafraid to question where we are spending money and how we are taxing people. Some of them have buckled to special interests, such as the advocates for removing the parking on South King Street for wider sidewalks. Leesburg is facing flat revenue and we have to be looking to expand our commercial tax base, particularly downtown, which is an underutilized asset.

What role should government play in helping downtown to stay competitive?

Reform the site plan process, ensure our planning, zoning and architectural review processes are predictable and ensure we are making transportation improvements (especially to unclog U.S. 15) and adding parking in our downtown and better traffic flow.

How well has the town managed growth and what else would you do differently?

The reality is that since I was first elected in 2006, the council has approved only about 1,000 new units, which is very low, and I have voted against more than 600 of those. Leesburg has grown in population primarily due to empty nesters leaving town and their homes being sold to families with children. I believe downtown Leesburg would be more viable as a destination for all residents, particularly retirees and millennials living downtown, where there is big demand. This, in turn, will make our downtown more viable and grow our commercial tax base with new restaurants and entertainment venues.

3 thoughts on “Election Guide: 10 Vie for Seats in Leesburg

  • 2016-10-27 at 10:06 am
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    Note to Candidates: If you build more houses, you make traffic worse. You have to scratch your head when you read, for example, from Dave Butler that the #1 issue he hears is traffic…and then follows up with saying he wants “urban infill.” Leesburg doesn’t need more houses or residents.

  • Pingback: Loudoun Now - Candidate Profile on Kevin Wright - Kevin Wright for Mayor of Leesburg

  • 2016-10-26 at 7:14 pm
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    Hammler is back to quoting 7 year old CNN stories as if they happened last week. This is to same old political spin from her. She claims to be non partisan but that is not true. She is a democrat working with Butler who is also a long time dem. She votes for high density housing and support all the democrat social issues. She wants your vote so she can be on VML. Getting back on Council is just a way of ensuring she can be VML President. VML you say what is that. It is a body that works for common rules to run local government. So Leesburg can be like Norfolk and Norfolk can be like Bristol and Bristol can be like Winchester etc. If I wanted to be like somewhere else I would live there. VML promotes local government not local people. For Hammler a vote for her is a vote for VML. Not true you say, well look at what she is saying here, her campaign ads in papers and her door hangers. Plus listen to her at council meetings and she can’t get through a topic without relating it to VML. She is doing all she can to get re-elected to VML oops I mean “Council”. No deal is to crocked or story to tall to tell for her to get you to send her to VML.

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