Roger Zurn Statement June 25, 2020

Good afternoon and thank you all for coming out today.

I have two goals that I would like to accomplish today.

First, I would like to offer a quick update on our work for the citizens of Loudoun County in our Treasurer’s office in light of the challenges of COVID19, and second, I wish to address my insensitive and inappropriate Facebook posts that have caused offense to many of our residents, particularly those in our African American community.

This office as you may know, utilized to the greatest extent possible our authority to provide relief to our citizens during the COVID19 crisis by moving the “personal property tax” deadline of May 5th, 2020 and extended it out 30 days to June 5th, 2020. We reached out to the public and asked them to contact us so we could set up payment plans whether for personal property or real estate taxes.

I am pleased to report that the citizens of Loudoun County appreciated this grace period, and as taxpayers demonstrated that appreciation by sending in their payments timely. Compared to the same dates in 2019, the Personal Property collection rate this year was 4.1 % higher, in the middle of a pandemic. Whereas, Real Estate collections were down by slightly less than 1%. Both numbers surpassed even our most optimistic projections. I am so pleased that we were able to be a part of the County’s efforts to help our citizens weather financial challenges while ensuring the continued fiscal health of our great Loudoun community.

Now, I would like to address you in my capacity as an elected public servant of this county of over 30 years, but also as a member of this community and as someone that many know.

I made a post on my personal Facebook page that rightly caused concern among many of our citizens beyond the African American community. I want to be clear that it was never my intent to be offensive or racially insensitive, particularly in this current national climate where we are all looking to find ways to come together as citizens, and as brothers and sisters. But, when you make a mistake, as I did, you need to come clean, admit it, and apologize without reservation. I would like to do that here and now.

I own it: I made a joke in poor taste, and although I realized my error quickly and removed the post, the damage was done. There is no excuse. There is no explanation. It was not my finest moment, and I know that there have been concerns about some of my other posts.

I hope that those of you who know me and know the work that I have done in this county, and who have seen me work across the often divisive aisle of politics know my heart. I hope that those who have seen me support and outreach to all communities regardless of race or faith, know that I am a man of deep faith, and a decent human being that is better than the sum of some very poor jokes posted on my personal Facebook page.

I have apologized on my Facebook page, but my heart is still heavy. And I wanted to stand up in this hour in person, and in this place where we need people like me to listen, to learn, and to grow and apologize as the good man I strive to be daily.

As I close I want to say just a few things:

First, I grew up in Baltimore City, so I have spent my life in diverse communities of color and I pride myself on the fact that I can walk into any room, any church, any social gathering and make friends, build alliances, and most importantly have meaningful fellowship. Many of you do not know my backstory–that I was raised for the most part by a single mother who had a fourth grade education. My father was an abusive alcoholic who left our family when I was eight, never to be heard from again. Mom’s vocation was cleaning homes, earning $10 to $15 a day. Food was not plentiful and we never had a car. The various housing we lived in was always in poor African American neighborhoods. The public schools I attended were 80 to 90% African American. So, it grieves me deeply to think I caused pain to a community that I know so well, and have been engaged with my entire life.

Secondly, I have learned the dangerous power of social media. Truthfully, I did not understand, until this unfortunate incident, the devastating impact that our words on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook could have on others.

You can all rest assured that I know that impact now. And that I will never post jokes of any kind in the future that have racial overtones, intentional or not.

Thirdly and finally, Actions speak louder than words. My actions over the 30 plus years have always been directed toward helping people. Some of these included: 1) initiating the first Affordable Housing Ordinance in the state to help lower income individuals live in the County.

2) Consistently being the financial watchdog to avoid any misstep that would lead to fiscal distress and higher taxes that the less fortunate could ill afford to pay 3) working with citizens when they are having financial problems by being empathetic and working out affordable payment plans And most importantly, my commitment to diversity and inclusion is demonstrated by who I hire to work in my office. The current diversity stats for my small office of 50 people are 80% female, with minorities making up 42% of the entire workforce which includes Black, Hispanic or Asian. I would also proudly note that I have two Chief Deputies, one being Asian and one being African American. I am committed as a public servant to not just diversity but inclusion. I believe that my actions in this regard speak louder than words.

My fellow citizens of Loudoun, our nation, our state, and yes, our country need leaders who are paying attention.

You don’t need more elected leaders who don’t own their mistakes. Who quit on you, or worse, who ignore you.

Today I am owning my mistakes. Yet, with a promise that I am going to grow from my mistakes. I am going to engage faith leaders, civil rights leaders and others as I always have to help me become a more thoughtful and in touch leader on issues around race and inclusion. We are living in extraordinary times, and we will only get through them if we give one another grace and have courageous conversations about the things that often seek to divide us.

With that being said, I will not be resigning my position as Treasurer as some have suggested. Leaders do not run from their mistakes, they grow from them. I have always conducted myself, in my public office with honor, integrity and respect. That will never change. Thank you to those in our community like who took me aside, sat with me, prayed with me and encouraged me to speak up and learn from this amazing moment we are all in. We are never too old to learn.

God bless you. Thank you for being here and I will now take one or two questions.

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