Although Middleburg has the proportionately largest percentage of black residents of any Loudoun town, it’s under fire for lacking a single person of color on its Town Council or staff.
The Town Council on June 25 is set to re-evaluate how it recognizes dates, organizations and people during meetings. Mayor Bridge Littleton said that discussion has been prompted by resident Brandon Lee Thomas’ request for the council to pass resolutions supporting the town’s black and LGBTQ communities. Littleton said the council needs to better understand the legal difference between resolutions, proclamations and statements, and how the council should properly use each of those, before it considers Thomas’ request.
In his email to the town, Thomas asked one question: “Can you defend the reputation and image that Middleburg is an all-white town?” Thomas pointed out that the mayor, Town Council and town staff, including police force, are all white.
He requested the Town Council consider passing two resolutions at its June 25 Town Council meeting—one in support of the town’s black residents and business owners and another honoring the 50th anniversary of pride month for the town’s LGBTQ community.
“We need more diversity in this town,” Thomas wrote in his email. “We need more outreach to minorities in this town to join the process.”
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the 620-resident Town of Middleburg is 68.9 percent white and 24.4 black. The next Loudoun town to boast anywhere near such a diverse racial makeup within its community is the 10,000-resident Town of Purcellville, which is 83.4 percent white and 8 percent black.
“Middleburg is a very diverse community,” Littleton said.
But in response to Thomas’ request for the Town Council to recognize those two minority groups, Littleton said the council first needs to discuss how it handles adding proclamations, resolutions and statements to meeting agendas, since, he said, they each have specific and different intents in the eyes of the law.
Littleton said that while council members would like to acquiesce all requests to pass those types of distinguishing items, if they continue to pass each and every one, more and more requests will come in. He said the council will consider “the right way to recognize these types of issues but in an appropriate way so that we can treat everyone the same.”
“You have to be fair to everybody, but you can’t do everything,” he said.
Littleton pointed out that the council on June 11 addressed the issue of racial equality by approving a proclamation reflecting a joint statement many mayors and chairs in Northern Virginia issued on June 4 condemning “decades of injustice.” That statement was signed by three Loudoun leaders—Littleton, Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk and County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
“As elected leaders we resolve to work together to ensure that the voices raised today will further the needed change in our society,” the statement reads. “We will work together to undo the culture of racism that was present at our founding and has bene perpetrated through racial disparities in education, housing, healthcare, and economic opportunity.”
“We want racial equality and equality for all,” Littleton said.
The town is also planning to host an Equality Walk on June 27.
In general, Littleton said it’s up to individuals to run for election on the Town Council, whether those individuals are white, black or another race. As for the town staff—which is made up of four men and four women—Littleton said the town includes components aimed to highlight diversity in the hiring process.
“We actively look for diverse candidates … just like you need to be,” he said.
Middleburg’s drive toward racial equality dates back six decades, when, in 1961, it became the first town in Virginia to integrate.
The concerns raised by Thomas in Middleburg represent the second time a Loudoun town has come under fire for similar reasons in recent months.
In December, Phillip Thompson, the former president of the Loudoun County NAACP and current president of Diverse Engagement, requested information on the Town of Purcellville’s diversity programs, seeing that the Town Council and town staff is predominantly white.
Town Manager David Mekarski has since met with Thompson to talk through those concerns.