As you may have heard by now, there are some important local elections in Virginia this year. Perhaps the one with the greatest impact will be for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The person who many consider the leading (or at least establishment) candidate for Chairman of the board is Democrat Jeff McKay, who has been Supervisor of the Lee District since 2007. This article is not about the Chairman’s race however, but about the somewhat crowded race to succeed McKay as Supervisor.
So far four Democrats have declared their candidacy. No Republicans have yet been brave enough to throw their hat into the ring.
The Lee District is a highly diverse area in the southeast region of Fairfax County that encompasses Franconia, Springfield, and what might be considered Southwest Alexandria. It is bordered on the north by the Beltway, while I-95 cuts through its western edge.
If you’ve ever hazarded the “Mixing Bowl,” you’ve been in Lee District and passed by Springfield Town Center, which is the second most valuable piece of property in the entire county, according to McKay. The western half of the Route 1 Corridor is also in the district, as is the largest county-administered park in Fairfax, Huntley Meadows Park.
In the Rose Hill and Hayfield sections of Lee District, you’ll find mostly older single-family homes and typical suburban lifestyles. The planned community of Kingstowne consists primarily of townhomes and has a bit more of an urbanist aesthetic, with walking and bike trails throughout the town.
Finally, west of Route 1, there are many old apartment complexes and several newer apartment buildings in varying stages of completion in places like Groveton and Hybla Valley.
Here's a look at the candidates
The first candidate to declare their intent to run was political newcomer Larysa Kautz of Groveton. Kautz is a lawyer and disability rights advocate, as well as the founder of Lawyers for Good Government. She is currently the Chief of Staff for Melwood, a $100-million, Silver Spring-based nonprofit that promotes employment and inclusion for people with disabilities.
While this is Kautz’s first campaign as a candidate herself, she has been involved in numerous political boards and councils. She took part in the Emerge Virginia program, which prepares women who want to run as Democrats for office. To this point in the race, Kautz has been emphasizing social justice issues in her campaign, and caused a bit of a stir when she called for the renaming of Lee High School and Lee District Rec Center by 2020.
Just two days after Kautz declared for the race, longtime Fairfax County employee and Hayfield resident Rodney Lusk entered the fray. Lusk served as land use zoning aide for Congressmember for Virginia's 11th District Gerry Connolly during his tenure as Fairfax County Supervisor. Lusk has already been endorsed in this race by Connolly, as well as by current BoS Chairman Sharon Bulova, retiring Providence District supervisor Linda Smyth, and former Lee District supervisor Dana Kauffman.
Currently, Lusk is national marketing director for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, a position he has held since 2009. He is also a former Lee District Planning Commissioner. Lusk is the Lee District representative on the EMBARK Richmond Highway project tasked developing the Richmond Highway corridor in the eastern part of Lee District.
Lusk delves into his priorities in a series of videos on his campaign's Facebook page. So far he has emphasized improving public transportation, affordable housing, and the environment. Regarding the latter, he says “The Green New Deal has set the finish line for where we need to take our county in terms of environmental sustainability. Its critically important that we have both short term goals, and long term plans for making the Green New Deal a reality.”
He also outlines a plan on his webpage to create an “innovation district” that would attract investment and provide jobs in new industries for the Richmond Highway Corridor. Lusk has been the winner of both of the straw polls held by the Fairfax County Democrats thus far, making him the presumptive frontrunner at this point.
James Migliaccio, who waited until just after the New Year to declare his intent to run, is the third declared candidate in the race. He's an Island Creek resident and current Lee District Planning Commissioner, and served as the deputy chief of staff to former Senator Chuck Robb, as well as a former chief of staff to incumbent Mason District supervisor Penny Gross.
The priorities Migliaccio has highlighted on his website are affordable housing, the environment, and improving public education. He also touts his close working relationship with current Lee District Supervisor and candidate for BoS chair Jeff McKay.
As planning commissioner, Migliaccio supported removing two planned bike paths through Huntley Meadows Park from the county’s comprehensive plan, and also stated that it’s time to re-evaluate Fairfax’s bicycle master plan. Migliaccio has been involved in the EMBARK Richmond Highway project, serving on many committees involved in the planning and development of the Richmond Highway corridor. Those endorsing Migliaccio so far include Delegate Mark Sickles of VA43 and Senator Adam Ebbin of VA30.
Finally, joining the field at the end of January was lawyer and progressive activist Kelly Hebron.
Hebron is also a graduate of the Emerge Virginia program as well as Leadership Fairfax. She is the founder of the “From Prison to Paralegal” program that offers career training to formerly-incarcerated people. Hebron has highlighted the issues of education, transportation, the environment and public safety on her campaign.
At a recent forum, Hebron shared her views on problems with short-term rentals in the district. She said that the current rules are not helpful, and a better solution needs to be found in order to promote equitable and affordable housing.
Issues urbanists will be watching
The driving issues in the race for Lee District Supervisor for urbanists will be transportation, housing, and the environment. As noted above, the eastern border of the Lee District is comprised of the western side of the Route 1 corridor. One year ago, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Embark Richmond Highway project, so big transportation changes are coming to the corridor.
The next Lee District Supervisor must be skilled in order to navigate the many issues that will accompany such a massive project, which includes road widening, pedestrian, and bike improvements, establishing a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT), and eventually a Yellow Line extension into Fairfax County. The ability to work in concert with other state and federal agencies, as well as with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors itself, will be of paramount importance.
As for the environment, all four candidates have expressed support for a “Green New Deal” but differ in what exactly that means and how to implement it. Similarly, all four candidates agree that the rules regarding short-term rentals in the district need to be reevaluated in order to help people afford to live here, but disagree on specifics.
We’re getting to the point where these races will start heating up. The candidates will likely start to distinguish themselves more, and we look forward to seeing their answers to our questionnaire. Stay tuned!