Longtime downtown business owner Neil Steinberg has thrown his hat into the ring for the Town Council seat up for grabs in November’s election.
Steinberg and his wife, KD Kidder, are the longtime owners of Photoworks, which celebrates 38 years in business this year. Loudoun County residents since 1975, Steinberg and Kidder opened Photoworks, which specializes in a host of photography and imaging services, in the downtown historic district in 1979. The two became town residents in 2008.
In addition to running his business, Steinberg has also served as a martial arts instructor for 20 years and has been politically active and involved on a variety of causes.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity and time to become more directly involved in the council, with the intention of running again in 2018,” he said.
Kelly Burk’s election to mayor in November created a vacancy on council. Hugh Forsythe was appointed to fill the seat until a special election. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of the term, expiring in December 2018.
“I’m not here to say that I’m here to save the town. I don’t think the town needs saving,” Steinberg said. “But I would definitely like to be more involved in the Town Council process.”
Although Steinberg praises the council for the high quality-of-life residents experience in town, there are some areas on which he plans to focus.
“Civility in our political discourse is less than pleasant these days,” he said. “If elected it would be my goal to promote a more civil atmosphere in local government. If we can’t speak in a civil fashion with our neighbors, if we can’t view different viewpoints with an open mind, then we won’t have much of a community nor will we get much done.”
Steinberg would also like to make sure Leesburg is more pedestrian-friendly. As many large-scale road projects are at the mercy of state funding, and with trends and preferences changing among the younger generations to leave the car at home and walk or bike, Town Council members need to make sure that the town sidewalk and trail network is in place to accommodate that.
“We need to make sure people can navigate the town on foot safely,” he said.
An informed citizenry is also a hallmark of Steinberg’s priorities. In this vein, he has a number of ideas that the council could undertake. Creating an opt-in, town-wide information network, above and beyond the current town website, to update the public on recent actions the council has taken is one idea.
Another involves the area his business calls home—the historic district. Town staff members should reach out to those moving into the Old & Historic District, whether a residence or commercial space, to avoid residents or business owners being caught off guard with the regulations involved with living in a historic district could avoid future surprises, he said.
That also goes to another of Steinberg’s goals: being a little more forward-thinking.
“If your Town Plan is always held hostage to the whims of the market then you don’t really have a plan, or at least not as a good of a plan as you might have. Often times that happens here,” he said. “Maybe we should look a little bit further than just 15 years from today.”
“If nothing else the council needs to be firm in its commitment that we’re going to follow the plan as we set it up. If we need to revise and revisit it then we can do that. But I think it needs to be done in that kind of a process as opposed to a piecemeal process,” he continued.
As to why he would be a good fit for the Town Council, Steinberg points to his decades spent as a business owner and instructor and, more recently, as a resident, keeping abreast of town issues and, most importantly, making connections.
“I have witnessed a generation, almost two now, of young people going from five-year-olds to 20-year-olds with families of their own. I have in that context been privileged to be a part of a lot of peoples’ lives, all types of ethnic and economic backgrounds. It’s been an excellent experience in learning how to get along with people outside of a political environment,” he said.
“You cannot, as an instructor, as a teacher, alienate people based on political beliefs or standing in the community because that immediately breaks down the bond of trust and respect that you absolutely have to have in a teaching environment. I think that’s been a good education, and I would offer that it has prepared me for a situation like this.”
Steinberg is planning a formal campaign kickoff, although a date has not yet been set. For more information about his campaign, go to the Neil Steinberg for Leesburg Facebook page, or forsteinberg.com.
Steinberg joins a ballot that includes two other candidates vying for the council seat: Joshua Thiel and Vanessa Maddox. The victor in November wins the council seat for a year, as the term expires Dec. 31, 2018. All three candidates have said, win or lose, they plan to run again for a four-year term in 2018. Forsythe recently ruled himself out for the November special election.
The filing deadline for all candidates interested in running in November’s Town Council special election is August 18.