After an unusually heated race, Loudoun County’s Soil and Water Conservation District board will have one new member.
Six candidates, including three incumbent members, ran for three seats on the board. The top three vote getters were incumbents John Flannery and Marina R. Schumacher and first-time candidate Michelle C. Thomas. Thomas led the balloting with close to 54,000 votes.
The Soil and Water Conservation District is responsible for the conservation work within Loudoun County. Its mission is to provide leadership in recognizing and addressing soil and water conservation issues and problems, both existing and potential, and to promote and develop education and technical programs that meet the agricultural and urban conservation needs.
Among the agency’s initiatives are a new septic tank pump-out rebate program, administering the state’s best management practices cost-share program, and offering cost-share funding for urban conservation practices such as tree planting.
The SWCD is led by five directors. Two are appointed by the state board and three are elected by county voters.
The third incumbent, James K. Wylie, came in last place in Tuesday’s voting, with about 13,500 votes.
Jasvinder “Jimmy” Singh came in fourth place with just over 33,300, votes, followed by George Melik-Agamirian with just over 25,700 votes.
Thomas, Flannery and Schumacher will serve four-year terms.
During the campaign, Flannery and Thomas, both endorsed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, clashed after Flannery wrote on his personal Facebook page that Thomas, who is the founder of the Loudoun Freedom Center and serves as president of the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP, was unsuited for the office. The posting was made after a meeting during which Flannery claimed that Thomas said she was “uncomfortable in a room full of white people” and called both Flannery and his wife Holly, who serves as an associate director at the SWCD, racists and liars. That exchange came after Flannery said he encouraged Thomas to change the emphasis of her campaign from one about race to the matters that come before the SWCD.
Thomas said Flannery misconstrued her message about criticizing the lack of diversity on the board as an assault of racism.
“That was never the intention,” Thomas said. “I think we all can look at the numbers and know that African Americans who have [historically] done all of the farming in Loudoun now are left out of the farming equation. We know that’s the problem. Part of the problem is systemic racism. That doesn’t mean everyone on the board is racist. For John to turn my inquiry into a personal assault, he’s just wrong for that.”