County supervisors reflected on their past four years of service during the final meeting of their term Dec. 17. Four of the nine supervisors will not be returning in 2020.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) lifted the normal time limits to let those members say their public goodbyes. Most remarked on the cooperative spirit of the board, despite differences in political party.
Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who chose not to run again, had tallied approximately the number of meetings he attended as a county supervisor.
“I estimate that I attended just under 3,000 meetings, so when people ask, ‘why are you retiring from this,’ do I have to say anything else?” Buona said. “It’s a big commitment, and for those of us up here, we understand the commitment behind this. But that commitment has a price tag, and that’s why I decided not to run for reelection.”
He recounted days at a time when he would not see his wife, who would be asleep by the time he got home from some meetings, or time missed with his four grandchildren. He also recounted positively his working relationship with the other eight supervisors, including Randall. He recalled that their first meeting was dominated by a fight over committee appointments.
“We did not start off on the right foot, we did not, but I think we really quickly came to respect each other,” Buona said. “We share a lot more in common than we don’t have in common. We probably voted the same on 90-plus percent of the issues, so you can’t let politics get in the way.”
Despite vigorous debate and party differences, the vast majority of votes on the Board of Supervisors have been unanimous. Split votes over the past four years were only sometimes split along party lines. Buona said his relationship with Randall “should be a model for what happens in Richmond and what happens in Washington.”
“We don’t always agree, but where we don’t, we figure it out. We compromise, we decide other ways to handle things,” Buona said. “But it has worked amazingly, and I consider you a friend. It’s been truly fun, and an honor to work with you.”
And with Metrorail stations planned to open early in the next board’s term, Buona said he considers his biggest accomplishment during his eight years on the board to be the vote to bring Metro into Loudoun.
“I just want to say thank you to my constituents, thank you to the county,” Buona said. “You have to remember in this position, you serve the people, you work for them. They don’t work for you. They put you here and they can take you out.”
Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) will also be leaving the board after losing her bid for a third term. She reflected on how Loudoun has changed since she first took office in 2012.
“Literally it was a different world eight years ago when Geary [Higgins], Ralph, Matt [Letourneau] and I came on the board,” she said. “We were coming out of the great recession. I’m sure then-Chairman Scott York looked at seven newbies coming onto the board, going, ‘oh my Lord.’”
She also reminisced on working with each of her colleagues on the board, and on the change in the board’s makeup to a Democrat majority.
“Moving forward, it’ll be a little different, having to serve the entire county, balancing the needs of the east, the west, the north, the south, all of that,” Volpe said. “It’s a great responsibility, the dramatic changes that have happened even in the last four years, and we’re still one of the fastest growing counties. … you have a lot on your plate, and it’s a heavy burden on your shoulders.”
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), who will not be returning to the board next year after unsuccessfully running in the Republican primary for the 13th State Senate District seat, said a focus on national politics is a big reason for the country’s problems today.
“Local government matters, and the more that we all focus on local government, the more harmonious all our communities will be,” Meyer said.
He held up Loudoun’s board as an example of bipartisan cooperation.
“Party drops off when you’re talking about land use, transportation, parks, public safety, and that’s where we need to be if we’re going to heal as a nation,” Meyer said. “If we’re going to heal extremism, that’s really where our focus needs to be.”
Meyer also thanked voters for making him the youngest-ever board member.
“Finally, I want to thank the voters of the Broad Run District, who had the courage to send a 26-year-old kid to the Board of Supervisors, the youngest in Loudoun history, to do a really important job,” Meyer said. “And I hope—my deepest hope—is that I made them proud.”
Randall predicted Meyer would be back in elected office at some point.
While other departing supervisors hailed the board’s bipartisan work, Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), who is leaving after running unsuccessfully for state senate, attributed Loudoun’s lowering tax rates, growing business climate, high level of school funding and massive investments in roads to “good, solid, conservative leadership.”
Although unable to attend, as his daughter was having a child in North Carolina, Higgins sent a letter to the board, which Buona read aloud.
“Please don’t take the county’s successes for granted,” Higgins wrote. “As I said above, these things do not happen by accident. They happen with good governance, they happen with wise fiscal decisions, they happen with wise land use decisions, they happen with resisting the temptation to raise taxes with every good idea. One doesn’t have to look very far to see that all the jurisdictions around us have ignored economic development, run off business, and raised taxes.”
With Buona and Volpe off the board, the longest-serving county supervisor will now be Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who will enter his third term.
“I hope that this next board can be as productive as this one was, because when you look back at the totality of what this board has done, we got an awful lot done,” he said
The next Board of Supervisors will begin its term with a formal swearing-in ceremony Jan. 4, and their first meeting Jan. 7 at 5 p.m.