Thirteen-year town resident Vanessa Maddox has officially thrown her hat in the ring for November’s Town Council special election.
The election will fill the one year remaining on Kelly Burk’s council term, prior to her election to the mayor’s seat last November. The seat will be on the ballot again in November 2018, for a new four-year term. Hugh Forsythe was appointed earlier this year to fill the seat until the special election winner has been sworn in. He announced last week that he would not be running to retain the seat.
Running for office is not something that just dawned on Maddox, who in professional life works full time for an IT company in Herndon as well as running her own consulting business, VR Maddox Consulting.
“I knew one day I would run for office. I just didn’t know when,” she said.
The native Washingtonian began working on Capitol Hill as a junior in high school and imagined herself as a lobbyist one day. She was even being mentored for her future job by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s chief of staff. But when she began working on a database project, “the IT bug bit me,” and her political aspirations fell to the wayside—at least for the time being.
“Fast forward 25 some-odd years later I’m living in a town called Leesburg and this opportunity just kind of fell in my path,” she said. “And I couldn’t resist it.”
When Maddox heard about the special election, she decided the time was right to begin her political career. Raising two school-age sons in the Parkview Estates neighborhood with her husband Roger, “it’s very important for me as their mother for them to see me finally realizing a dream and a goal. That’s going to show them they can do absolutely anything they want in this world. That’s critical for us,” she said.
“The political bug never went away. It was always there in my gut,” she said. “This is that window of opportunity people wait for their entire lives. I would’ve been a fool not to take it.”
Maddox also makes her intentions for 2018 crystal clear—win or lose this November, you can expect to see her name on the ballot for a new four-year term in 2018.
“This is the start of something bigger,” she said.
Noting that there is “a lot of good stuff going on in town,” Maddox hones in on three areas she would like to see enhanced, and what some of her initial priorities as a council member would be. Hearkening back to her time serving on two town boards and commissions—the Technology & Communications Commission and the Economic Development Commission—Maddox sees the “infusion of technology” into the town as a possible enhancement. The Technology & Communications Commission has previously discussed the creation of a town-wide Wi-Fi system, which she sees as an attraction for millennials and their families to the town. Secondly, Maddox wants to be an advocate for four marginalized groups in society: the elderly, women, children, and veterans.
“Whatever is affecting those groups in our community is where I need to be,” she said.
Finally, Maddox notes her concern for the environment.
“I want to enhance or implement whatever green projects are critical to the town,” she said. “I think we have the infrastructure and knowledge base to think way outside the box on ways we can help green the town.”
One initial idea is the implementation of a bikeshare-type system—where bike racks and payment kiosks are placed around town with bicycles available for rent—to encourage bicycle use and an alternative to driving, or just another recreation amenity. Hosting eco-friendly car rentals in town is another option, she said.
Maddox said her election to the council would bring a needed “fresh pair of eyes” to the dais.
“I have a very forward-thinking kind of mindset,” she said. “Since I’ve lived here so long and seen what I’ve seen I think I can bring a brand new, fresh perspective to the council. They need someone like me.”
Maddox said she has already been able to establish herself as a community advocate throughout different avenues. She made many connections running a women’s networking group, drew attention as a TEDx curator, and has gained some local notoriety as of late with her YouTube series “Live from the Minivan.”
The video series takes places every weekday morning for three to five minutes and features Maddox talking about “whatever pops into my little brain.”
“I don’t plan or rehearse it,” she said. “It’s fresh, new, funny.”
On Saturdays, she features a guest in her minivan whom she interviews. Guests can include local leaders and other political candidates. The popular video series has gone viral several times, she said, and her interview slots for Saturday mornings are filled through the end of September.
Maddox is hosting an initial campaign event this Saturday, June 3, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Mason Enterprise Center. The event, which will focus on creating a vision board and include light food and music, is open to the public and tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com.
For more information about Maddox, find #vanessa4towncouncil on Facebook. A campaign website is also under development.
Maddox joins another Economic Development commissioner, Josh Thiel, on November’s ballot. Photoworks owner Neil Steinberg has also announced his candidacy.