A newlywed and proud millennial is hoping to add a new title to his résumé: Leesburg Town Council member.
Joshua Thiel has announced that he will be running in November’s special election to fill the remainder of Mayor Kelly Burk’s unexpired council term.
Burk’s election to the mayor’s seat last November means that someone must fill the remainder of her term, which expires Dec. 31, 2018. Hugh Forsythe was appointed to serve in that seat until the special election.
Forsythe was picked from five candidates in January for the interim appointment. Thiel was also a candidate and had his name brought up for consideration twice, but did not secure the four votes needed for appointment.
Thiel, 27, said it was a calling to serve that pushed him to put his hat in the ring for the interim appointment, and he said that even though he was unsuccessful in that bid, the feedback since from family, friends, and community members has been overwhelming.
“People came out of the woodwork and were like, ‘You should have gotten it. You would’ve been great,’” Thiel said.
The winner in November will be in the unenviable position of needing to campaign in two consecutive years, as one year later the seat will be up for re-election. Thiel is excited about the opportunity, and said no matter what the outcome in November he intends to run the following year. If anything, he points out, campaigning two years in a row could give him increased visibility among voters and a better understanding of things he can work on as a local representative.
In fact, being a public face tops his priority list if elected. He said the town needs more visibility from its council members and more interaction from them with the public and town businesses. A fresh voice and perspective is also needed, Thiel says, as he points out that most council members have been serving in either town or county roles for a decade or more.
He is hoping to take some cues from his own childhood as to how to work well with his peers on the council.
“I grew up with three brothers. We learned to fight, get up, brush it off, and we’d hug each other 20 seconds later. That’s where some of these local politicians have gone wrong. They get hurt and hold grudges,” he said.
Thiel also said that he hopes to improve transparency between the council and residents, as well as between the council and town businesses, so more people know what is being discussed.
He is all about accentuating the positive in Leesburg.
“Too many times we hear what’s going wrong with the town and negative stuff. I want to bring back the positive influences that are happening around town, and [highlight] the good things people are doing to support one and other,” he said.
Thiel’s family moved to Leesburg when he was 10, and he said even while attending Saint Francis University and then pursuing an NFL kicking career, the town “was always home base.”
He married his wife, Abigail, last May, and the two recently purchased a house in Crescent Place. Thiel currently works for Booz Allen Hamilton and, earlier this year, was appointed to the town’s Economic Development Commission. He is also an active volunteer at Leesburg Presbyterian Church, where he leads the men’s and youth groups.
Thiel said he is in the process of collecting all the signatures he needs to be placed on November’s ballot. A campaign kickoff is anticipated, although a date has not yet been set. For more information about Thiel and his campaign, go to facebook.com/thielforleesburg.