The two candidates vying to fill a seat on the Leesburg Town Council dais engaged in a wide-ranging debate over some of the town’s hottest topics Thursday night.
A dozen days from Election Day, Joshua Thiel and Vanessa Maddox participated in a debate organized by Loudoun Now at Black Hoof Brewing. Dozens of members of the public and supporters of both candidates were in attendance, where they heard the candidates share their thoughts on everything from affordable housing to downtown parking to development opportunities within Leesburg.
On affordable housing, Maddox said it’s a topic she’s heard consistently from voters when campaigning door to door.
“There are citizens of our town who would like their families to move to Leesburg because they love it. These are people like police officers, nurses, teachers, who would like to live where they work and they’ve been saying to me ‘I don’t know how my family is going to afford to move here’,” she said. “If I’m chosen as the next Town Council member I will make sure that we outline a constructive, viable plan to deal with affordable housing.”
Thiel pointed to his work as a member of the Economic Development Commission on sharing insights into the formulation of the Eastern Gateway District plan, which outlines development and redevelopment opportunities in Leesburg along the area of East Market Street between River Creek Parkway and the Leesburg Bypass.
“We’re going to grow there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But we need to build a plan and an infrastructure that’s conducive to the future of Leesburg. We have to be very, very conscious of where we’re building and how we’re impacting citizens, and what businesses are coming into Leesburg. Are they conducive to downtown, to Leesburg as a whole?”
The two were also asked about how they would help the often-fractious council operate better as a whole. Building relationships was a key theme stressed by both.
“If we can’t build relationships when we’re campaigning I’m sure we can’t build them when we get there,” Maddox said.
“We have to work together to get things done. We can’t do it based off half of the council,” Thiel said. “When you put your agenda ahead of the town’s the only people that suffer are the townspeople and residents. I’m willing to work with anyone who’s here to help the town. I would work with Vanessa anytime, because I know her heart’s in the right place.”
On a recent hot-button issue—downtown parking—the candidates also shared their ideas. Thiel said the town needed to look at long-term solutions, addressing the infrastructure and making sure changes are conducive to businesses. Maddox suggested looking at some out-of-the-box ideas, like instituting a bike sharing program in town where residents and visitors could pay to rent a bike for several hours at a kiosk.
Audience members also posed questions to the candidates, including how they would rate the current council’s performance—both offered B+ scores—and how the town/county relationship could be improved.
The victor on Election Day will serve the remaining year of Kelly Burk’s unexpired council term following her election as mayor last fall. A new four-year term will be on the ballot next November. The winner is expected to be sworn in prior to the next set of council meetings, Nov. 13-14.
For more information on both candidates, check out Loudoun Now’s Election Guide in next week’s paper. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.