In his second campaign for town office, Joshua P. Thiel has landed a seat on the Leesburg Town Council, according to unofficial tallies in Tuesday’s special election.
In a three-way race, the 27-year-old outpaced Neil R. Steinberg and Gwen Pangle. Thiel and Steinberg traded the lead as votes were reported by election officers in the town’s 12 voting precincts. In the end, Thiel got 1,484 votes, Steinberg 1,334, and Pangle 423.
Turnout was 11.38 percent.
Thiel will fill the seat vacated by Councilman Ken Reid, who stepped down when he took a job out of the region. The term will expire on Dec. 31, 2020.
Reid came to Black Hoof Brewing on Tuesday night to congratulate Thiel in person. Reid, in tears, told him, “You don’t know what it means to see you win this council seat.”
Thiel is now the youngest elected official in Northern Virginia, 28-year-old Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) announced at the victory party after the results were announced. “It’s good to see fresh faces in local politics—fresh faces, fresh ideas,” Meyer said.
Thiel’s family moved to Leesburg when he was 10. He attended Cool Spring Elementary, Harper Park Middle, and Heritage High schools. After college, he pursued an NFL kicking career before returning to Leesburg where he and his wife, Abigail, bought a home in the Crescent Place neighborhood.
Leesburg Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox said that she first met Thiel a little over a year ago when he asked that she consider appointing him to the council seat vacated by Mayor Kelly Burk. “I knew right away that he’d make a great councilmember,” she said, adding that he’s energetic and hard working. “We have a lot of diversity on the council, but we don’t have a millennial.”
Thiel told supporters gathered at the King Street brewery that they can expect him to fight against the opening of Kincaid Boulevard to traffic created by the future DC United stadium and against the development of the Westpark Golf Club property—two of the hot button issues in recent weeks.
“Now it is time to get to work. I look forward to serving the town that I grew up in, be a part of a wonderful place, and being the next councilman of a great town.”
He commended Pangle and Steinberg for a hard-fought campaign. “They love this town and it showed throughout the entire campaign,” he said.
He also thanked his wife, parents, siblings, friends and supporters. “I wouldn’t be here without you all. So this is actually the town’s win.”
Although Steinberg told his supporters gathered at King’s Tavern that the loss was a “bummer,” he said he felt the election might play out the way it did—with the vote being split between he and Pangle. “We had a feeling if anything we might see exactly what we saw … and that would hand Josh the election,” he said.
When asked whether he would run again in November when three council seats along with the mayor’s chair will be on the ballot, Steinberg didn’t shut down the idea. “All I would say now is it’s a possibility,” he said. “There’s nothing definitive yet—no snap decisions right away.”
Reached for comment late Tuesday, Pangle said, “I want to thank everyone who helped me and believed in me over the last 10 weeks. I believe Josh will serve Leesburg well.”
Although municipal elections in Virginia are nonpartisan, Steinberg was formally endorsed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and Thiel was supported by Loudoun Republicans, although not officially endorsed in the race by the party’s county committee.
Thiel had also campaigned for a council seat in November, but lost to Vanessa Maddox in the bid to serve the final year of Kelly Burk’s term following her election as mayor. In that race, Maddox, who won by 356 votes over Thiel, will be back on the campaign trail this fall. In addition to Burk and Maddox, the seats held by Fox and Councilman Marty Martinez will be on the ballot in November. After that, the next scheduled town election is November 2020—perhaps a welcome reprieve to town leaders and voters alike.