County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large)’s annual State of the County address Wednesday night was a speech dominated by naming and celebrating remarkable Loudouners.
Those people covered a range of accomplishments and passions, starting with long-serving senior chaplain of the Combined Rescue System Charlie Grant; former Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department and Broad Run supervisor Chief Kenny Graham; and the county’s longest-serving volunteer and Aldie fire chief Louis Carter. The three men together have put in more than 150 years of service to the county.
She also cited the contributions of Bruce Rahmani, who emigrated to the United States with very little to his name and went on to found Falcon Heating & Air Conditioning, which she said employs more than 100 people; Loudoun’s teacher of the year Denise Corbo, a gifted education teacher at Horizon, Sugarland and Steuart Weller elementary schools; Loudoun’s principal of the year, Liberty Elementary School’s Paul Pack; and Doug Fabbioli, Fabbioli Cellars winemaker and owner and founder of the New Ag School.
The last person Randall called out of the audience for applause was the fashion designer who hand-sewed her outfit for the evening—entrepreneurial 11-year-old Skyler Johnson, founder of Sew Fly Sky.
Randall used the examples of those Loudouners to point to what she sees as larger trends in the county, such as multiculturalism, economic growth, strong education, a protected agricultural economy, volunteerism, and county planning, among other topics.
Randall opened her speech by celebrating Loudoun’s volunteers—both in nonprofits and in fire and rescue.
“Our volunteers are caring, committed people who know their help is required when people are at the most vulnerable time of their life, yet often unwilling or unable to seek the assistance they desperately need,” Randall said.
In the first minutes of her speech, Randall also pointed to Loudoun’s diverse population. According to the Census Bureau, almost 85,000 Loudouners were born in another country, amounting to 23 percent of the population.
“I am so proud Loudoun is now and will continue to be a welcoming and inclusive community,” Randall said. “Our doors, our minds and our hearts are open to all, no matter where you come from, what you look like, who you worship, or who you love.”
She went on to celebrate Loudoun’s economy, its growth, its data center market, and its tourism. She also nodded to the competition for Amazon’s planned second headquarters , which she described as “the largest [Economic Development] project anyone can remember.”
“The question I am asked all the time is, is Amazon coming to Loudoun?” Randall said. “And the answer is, ‘I don’t know, no one knows.’”
She told attendees that the Board of Supervisors is focused on addressing concerns about the county’s housing needs, which business leaders have pointed to as one of the biggest barriers to opening a new business in Loudoun. Randall pointed to the board’s planned Housing Summit and its “emphasis on increasing the number of workforce, affordable, lower income and disability housing,” and to the four new positions added to the county’s staff for the next fiscal year to focus on housing.
Loudoun’s agricultural economy, she pointed out, includes more than half of Northern Virginia’s agri-tourism venues. And she said the county’s planning policies have protected Loudoun’s agricultural heritage.
“Our mission to save farmland in western Loudoun is working,” Randall said—to some disagreement from a handful of people in the audience. “According to the American Farmland Trust, the U.S. loses more than 40 acres of farm and ranch land every hour. Through our efforts in Loudoun, that number is less than one-tenth of an acre. “
She also mentioned Loudoun’s ongoing work to rewrite its comprehensive plan, the coming opening of three Metro stops in Loudoun, and Loudoun’s education system—particularly the Academies of Loudoun, which is set to open in the fall.
“We believe this innovative school will offer our students the opportunity to compete on the world’s stage in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” Randall said.
“Clearly as measured by the strength of our economy and the compassion and tenacity of our people, it is indeed obvious to me, as I hope it is to all of you, that Loudoun is the best county in the country,” Randall summarized. “And I stand before you to proudly and confidently proclaim that the state of Loudoun County is strong.”
She was joined onstage by Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk; the Dominion High School titan Singers; Paxton Campus employee Jonny Curtis, who sang the National Anthem; Jibreel Martinez Jaka, who led the Pledge of Allegiance; and Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson.
This article was corrected Wednesday, May 23 at 9:20 p.m. due to an error about Aldie Fire Chief Louis Carter.