Loudoun Candidates Discuss Business Development, Rural Preservation

Twenty-two candidates running for seats on the county Board of Supervisors and the School Board, in the 13th

State Senate District, and for sheriff, Commissioner of the Revenue, Commonwealth’s Attorney and County Treasurer spent their lunch hour at Patrick Henry College on Tuesday afternoon to give their takes on issues like western Loudoun preservation, business development, traffic, taxes, broadband connectivity and more.

Hosted by the Purcellville Business Association and moderated by its president, Mary Gayle Holden, the forum gave each candidate less than a minute to stand before the luncheon crowd and explain how they plan to improve Loudoun if elected on Nov. 5.

Perhaps the most anticipated battle this fall is for County Chairman At-Large, a three-way race with incumbent Phyllis J. Randall (D) being challenged by Loudoun attorneys John Whitbeck, a Republican, and Bob Ohneiser, an independent.

While Ohneiser outlined his plans to lower taxes, roll out a farmland protection program, ensure that VDOT maintains roads and that all residents are connected to broadband, Randall and Whitbeck emphasized their goals to keep county regulations off of businesses and to provide the local workforce with affordable housing.

Specifically, Whitbeck said he would work to streamline the business application process, make commercial properties plentiful and give Loudoun a chance to fight for distance-based pricing and lower tolls.

Randall said she would work to keep government “out of the way” of businesses and to keep the workforce local. “It is not OK that the people who work for us cannot afford to live in Loudoun County,” she said.

Another of the most heavily anticipated races is for Commonwealth’s Attorney, featuring Buta Biberaj, a Democrat, and Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicole Wittmann, a Republican. Biberaj said she would work on fiscal accountability if elected, noting that rural Loudoun can only stay rural if county finances are in order.

Wittmann, a prosecutor for 26 years, said she would continue working to keep crime rates low in Loudoun if elected and invited the business association to visit her Loudoun home—referencing a recent lawsuit asserting that when she filed to run for the office, she did not live in Loudoun.

Running for Loudoun County Sheriff are incumbent Mike Chapman, a Republican, and Justin Hannah, a Democrat who was absent on Tuesday. Chapman said he is working to improve public safety by putting a school resource officer in all of Loudoun’s elementary schools and working to educate parents and children on the dangers of vaping.

Running for 13th State Senate District are Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Del. John J. Bell (D-87), who was absent on Tuesday. Higgins said he would focus on pro-business polices and western Loudoun preservation if elected. He said the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but that “it’s a balance that needs to be struck.”

Running for supervisor in the Blue Ridge District are incumbent Supervisor Tony Buffington, a Republican, and Tia Walbridge, a Democrat. Although not present on Tuesday, Buffington aired a video, in which he said he supported pro-business policies that he said have led to more than 15,000 new jobs and more than $3 billion in new economic development in Loudoun. “I hope I’ve earned your continued support,” he said.

Walbridge said she’s focused on a hands-on approach to business development and that she would like to implement a database to connect farmland owners looking to lease property with young farmers.

Running for supervisor in the Catoctin District are Democrat Forest Hayes, who was absent on Tuesday, Republican Caleb Kershner and Sam Kroiz, an independent.

Following immediately after comments from sheep farmer Walbridge, Kershner said he “will not pull the wool over your eyes” and that he’d work to reduce taxes and alleviate the county’s regulations on small businesses.

Kroiz said he’s running “to keep rural Loudoun rural” and that he is the best candidate because of his independent standing, which would allow him to welcome ideas from the left and right.

Running for County Treasurer are incumbent Roger Zurn, a Republican who’s also Loudoun’s longest-serving elected official, and Kannan Srinivasan, a Democrat. Srinivasan said “the artery of this county runs to the small businesses of western Loudoun.” Zurn noted that he personally handles the county’s investments and that he’s done so with $1 billion and never had a single loss.

The Commissioner of the Revenue race is between incumbent Robert Wertz, a Republican, and Sri Amudhanar, a Democrat. While Amudhanar said that residents need a voice in the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office, Wertz said he would continue making it easy to do business in Loudoun, as he said he’s done since being elected in 2004.

On the School Board for the At-Large seat, Denise Corbo, Kenya Savage and Julie Sisson, who was absent on Tuesday, are on the ballot. Corbo referenced the nonprofit she formed, StoryBook Treasures, to combat illiteracy in Loudoun. She said the nonprofit has raised more than $250,000 to support literacy in Loudoun’s children and has increased literacy rates among them from 63-92 percent in four years. “Vote for me and you will vote for an experienced educator, a business woman,” she said.

Savage, who said she was the only school board candidate to not associate with a political party, said she would work to make communication between schools and parents more sustainable.

In the Blue Ridge District for the School Board, it’s Ian Serotkin and Ram Venkatachalam. Serotkin said that through his leadership of the More Recess for Virginians advocacy group, he successfully lobbied the county to more than double recess time.

Venkatachalam said that he would focus on affordable housing for teachers.

And in the Catoctin District for the School Board, it’s Jenna Alexander, John Beatty and Zerell Johnson-Welch. Alexander said she’s working to connect students with agricultural education and that “western Loudoun needs a powerful voice on the school board.”

Beatty said he would work to support teachers and ensure that the school budget grows in line with student growth.

Johnson-Welch said she’s focused on kids’ social and mental health because kids nowadays are under more stress than kids in years past.

Holden said the forum was a good way for attendees to get to know the candidates’ views. “This will be critical for when we get to November,” she said.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

6 thoughts on “Loudoun Candidates Discuss Business Development, Rural Preservation

  • 2019-09-12 at 11:04 am
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    I know it’s almost too much to ask candidates for specifics but I wonder which regulations on small businesses Mr. Kershner is talking about? Many of us are getting quite tired of neighbors who decide to start what they hope is a money-making scheme at their house and soon they’re forcing their neighbors to endure their 24×7 signs and banners. Country regulations are the only thing that keeps this behavior in check and I for one don’t want that vigilance relaxed even a little.

  • 2019-09-12 at 11:40 am
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    School Board being non partisan did Ms. Savage get a offer from the democrats or republican party to endorse her. Could it be no endorsement was offered so she spins the outcome?

    • 2019-09-12 at 10:30 pm
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      Mr. Orange, I appreciate your comment, allowing me the opportunity to clarify a couple things in this article and address your comment. I chose not to seek a political party endorsement because there is too much partisan politics already that create barriers and prevent effective decision-making pertaining to our schools. The school board seat is non partisan and should be governed as such.
      With an endorsement, a candidate is beholden to the coordinated campaign efforts and the agenda of that party. And, I chose not to have any political party drive how I will govern or how I address the duties and responsibilities as your next At-Large School Board Representative. I believe good ideas can come from any party and should be explored equally. Our K-12 education and the policies necessary to ensure all students have the opportunities, access and ability for higher education, career, or military services beyond our high schools must be extensible allowing each student to achieve their fullest academic potential with excellence.

  • 2019-09-12 at 3:52 pm
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    “Specifically, Whitbeck said he would work to streamline the business application process, make commercial properties plentiful…”

    What planet is this guy from? The last thing western Loudoun needs is more commercial properties.

  • 2019-09-13 at 6:36 am
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    Not quite sure I follow how does a endorsement require a quid pro quo? Are there benefits a candidate receives they will pay for at some point? Candidates are vetted not given talking points and the board is still non=partisan after the election.
    Is casting aspersions on those who are endorsed by party’s a winning strategy? We don’t think we a beholden.
    The support from our supervisor and district chair has been non existent is that what you are referring to? Poor behavior by those who endorse you are a burden we must bear until we can remove them for cause.
    Your sentence to end your reply is campaign junk, puffery and blather rolled into one.

  • 2019-09-15 at 8:59 am
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    I would hope voters look at ALL candidates in these races. In many cases, the party affiliation has little to do with how candidates end up governing.

    I think we all could agree that a voter has a responsibility to educate themselves on the candidates BEFORE voting. Or at least I hope we can agree on that.

    Rank order voting would be the single greatest improvement to induce better candidates to run and to elect more honest, qualified candidates.

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