County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) celebrated Loudoun’s collaborative politics and emerging place on the national stage at the final State of the County address of her first term Wednesday evening.
“At a time when the word ‘compromise’ has become forbidden, when working across the aisle is seen as a betrayal of one’s political party, and when actually agreeing with someone from the other side of the aisle could end one’s political career, [Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn)] and I forming a collaborative relationship seemed to be an almost impossible idea,” Randall said, reflecting on the beginning of the board’s current term in 2016. “If I’m honest, what the vice chair and I have achieved has not come easily.”
But Randall said she and Buona “have found far more that unites us than divides us” since that time, which she said “is a lesson that can be instructive for so many legislators—not just across the commonwealth, but across the country.”
And she said the county’s increased involvement and leadership regional and national organizations “serves as an explicit declaration that our county is primed to step onto the national stage to be recognized as one of the premier counties in the country.” Randall said she will be the first Loudoun elected official to speak to the full membership of the National Association of Counties, and announced that in July, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet will take over as president of the National Association of County Administrators.
“This is a huge moment for our county and a message that we are no longer a bedroom community for Washington, DC, but a county to be reckoned with, able to stand toe-to-toe, shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side with other influential, growing, and thriving counties in our country,” Randall said.
As has been her practice, Randall talked about county staff members and several Loudouners she has encountered over the past year, including 14-year-old author and nonprofit founder Alana Andrews and 15-year-old Allisyn Lam, who raised $5,000 to send to an orphanage in Kenya.
She also nodded to Loudoun’s accelerating loss of farmland, but tried to put a positive spin on the trend.
“Although this Board of Supervisors has not approved a single new home in rural Loudoun County, due to by-right development, we have lost over 12,000 acres of farmland,” Randall said. “However, through the efforts of our Economic Development Department and our Rural Economic Development Committee, over the course of this Board’s term, we’ve increased rural Loudoun’s harvest by 5.7 percent. In fact, during our term, revenue from Loudoun farm products increased from $37 million to $44 million, a 19 percent increase.”
She also mentioned Howardsville, the small Loudoun village that still has no running water.
“How is it that, right in our county, we have an entire community that time forgot, and what, as the county chair, is my responsibility to them?” Randall said, noting that the Board of Supervisors has directed funding to build a local wastewater treatment system for the community.
Ultimately, she declared “we are such a complex, diverse, and inclusive county, that a single word could not possibly cover all that we are.” But she gave the county the same diagnosis she has every year of this term: “strong.”
“The state of our county—the state of the best county in the country—is inclusive, vibrant, brilliant, advancing, and yes, the state of Loudoun County is strong,” Randall said.
The program kicked off with musical performances by high school students Colleen Clark, performing the national anthem, and Joshua Teague, playing saxophone, and glowing praise for Randall from Ruby Brabo, the at-large member of the King George County Board of Supervisors and member of the National Association of Counties Board of Directors.
“It is her dedication to not just improving Loudoun County, but helping other counties achieve the same, that demonstrates true American spirit,” Brabo said.