Leesburg Town Councilman Josh Thiel will be leaving his council seat ahead of November’s election.
Thiel announced during last Tuesday’s council meeting that he will resign from his seat effective May 31, foregoing his first re-election bid this November.
He cited several reasons for his resignation. The primary one is that he and his wife Abigail will be moving outside of the town corporate limits, to the River Creek neighborhood, at month’s end, making him ineligible to hold the seat. But he will trade the title of Town Council member for one even more prized: dad. He and his wife are expecting their first baby in November.
“It is not in my nature to not finish something that I have started,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which he read aloud to the council Tuesday. “Now is the right time in my life to take a step back from public service in order to support and focus on my family, health and career. I have loved the opportunity the amazing people of Leesburg have given me and there is no way I can thank them enough for allowing me to lead and guide the town that I grew up in and love so dearly. I will forever be filled with gratitude for the honor that has been placed on me by the people of this town to serve as your councilman.”
In addition to the move and the upcoming new addition to his family, Thiel also cited a recent promotion at work in affecting his duties to serve.
Thiel’s journey to a council seat was an interesting one. He was a Leesburg political unknown in January 2017 when he threw his hat in the ring to be considered for an interim appointment to the council to fill Kelly Burk’s unexpired council term, following her election to mayor the prior November. That appointment instead went to Hugh Forsythe, but Thiel filed to run in a November special election to serve out the remaining year of Burk’s term. He lost to Vanessa Maddox but, less than two weeks later, again found himself in campaign mode when Ken Reid announced he was resigning from the council. It was a much more condensed campaign period the second time around, as Thiel vied to serve the remaining almost three years of Reid’s term in a February 2018 special election. The second time was the charm, as he bested Neil Steinberg and Gwen Pangle in a three-way race.
Looking back, “it felt like I ran for office more than I was in office,” Thiel said with a laugh, in an interview with Loudoun Now. He admitted he was deflated after he lost in his first election bid, but got to play out all those “what-if” scenarios with how he ran his first campaign in running his second.
His election to the council at the age of 27 caught the attention of other future candidates, some of whom credited a millennial with winning a council seat as showing others that you don’t have to wait to enter into public service. Thiel acknowledged that he caught some flack on the campaign trail for not having enough experience to serve on the council, but said he is glad he helped to break the mold.
“I’m proud to be not your normal millennial, and run as someone that just cares about my town. I grew up here, I wanted to give back to it some way, shape or form. There’s never really a right time to run for office; you just do it because you care,” he said.
He cites his work on bringing the noise ordinance back up for consideration among his proudest achievements. A revised ordinance recently passed which, among its biggest changes, extends the curfew for amplified sound to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, up from 8 p.m. Thiel also said he is glad he had a hand in allowing expanded regulations for food trucks, and being a part of the downtown resurgence. He is also proud of his work on the budget. He said he wishes he would have been able to see the town-county boundary line adjustment process through to the finish line but, on the whole, “I think I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do.”
Thiel said he won’t rule out a return to elected office in the future, but for now is content on focusing on his growing family.
“You never know what the future holds for you,” he said. “God’s got a plan for everybody.”
Thiel’s resignation on May 31 will start the 45-day clock for the Town Council to fill his seat on an interim basis through the end of the year. His seat will be up for a new four-year term in November. The winner in that race will take office Jan. 1.
Along with Thiel’s seat, Burk and council members Tom Dunn and Ron Campbell are also up for re-election. Burk and Dunn have announced their re-election bids for mayor and council member, respectively, but Campbell has stayed mum on his plans. Council challengers Zach Cummings and Ara Bagdasarian will also be on the ballot in November.