Smashing Walnuts Co-Founder Eyes School Board Seat

A fifth person has lined up to fill the vacant seat on the Loudoun County School Board.

Mark Miller, Loudoun realtor and co-founder of the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, said he plans to file to represent the Catoctin District on the board this week. The seat has been vacant since Oct. 26 when Eric DeKenipp resigned with 14 months left in his first term.

Miller has served on the Loudoun County Library Board of Trustees since 2011 and has served as its chairman since 2013. He’s served on the county’s Fiscal Impact Committee since 2016 and on the Library of Virginia Board of Trustees since July 2017. In 2013, Miller, his wife, Ellyn, and their daughter, Gabriella, founded the Smashing Walnuts Foundation which raises funds for childhood cancer research. In October of that year, 10-year-old Gabriella died of a rare brain cancer.

In a prepared statement, Miller said of his priorities if appointed to the board, “As a member of the school board, I will focus on providing Western Loudoun community elementary students with the best opportunities to be successful, budgeting responsibly to ensure the system has the necessary tools to create an exceptional school system, fostering improved relationships with the Board of Supervisors, increasing collaboration with the County’s library and Parks & Rec departments and ensuring the school board itself has the tools necessary to manage a complex and multifaceted $1.2 billion school system.”

The Millers’ son, Jake, is in fifth grade at Sycolin Creek Elementary School. Jake has also attended the private Loudoun Country Day School and Middleburg Community Charter School, which Mark Miller said has offered him a unique insight into how the various education models work.

Miller has worked as a residential and commercial realtor with Long & Foster since 2005.

His announcement makes five people who have publically stated they would apply for the post. Others in the running are director of the Hunt District PTA Jenna Alexander, founder of Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students Chris Croll, Lucketts Elementary School PTA President Amy Tribié, and former School Board member Bob Ohneiser.

Those interested in being appointed to the Catoctin District seat must email a statement of interest to School Board Clerk Christine Coleman at by noon Nov. 26. At 6:30 p.m. that day, the School Board will hold a special meeting to interview potential candidates for the seat and take public comment on the candidates. The board is scheduled to appoint a new board member at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 4.

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