Gerry Connolly has the experience, intelligence and vision to serve as the top elected official in Fairfax County.
The position of chairman of the Board of Supervisors is not vested with extraordinary powers, rather it is up to the individual who serves as chairman to set the agenda for the good of the county through extraordinary leadership.
Connolly shares the values of most families in Fairfax County. He understands the value of excellent schools and the quality of life here both to residents and as an economic value. He has a grasp of the workings of county government and the mechanics of regional cooperation. He has empathy and commitment to attending to the county’s neediest citizens. And he knows the danger of arbitrary pledges for the sake of campaign sound bites.
BUT IT WILL take more than these critical underpinnings to lead Fairfax County in the next four years. The next chairman must lead with vision, by solving problems, by bringing diverse points of view together, by compromise. While the job requires a sense of perspective, moving forward on the major issues of the county will require concentrating resources in particular arenas.
This is not a job that can be accomplished by thinking of the chairman as being just one more vote on the board. The effort required will go far beyond running meetings. Connolly is the best prepared of the candidates to undertake this challenge.
CONNOLLY WILL NEED to do some soul searching about chinks in his leadership style as he takes charge of the board. Recent Agnew-esque incidents of name-calling during conflict on the board do not show his skills at their best.
And it is urgent that the next chairman of the Board of Supervisors establish a blue ribbon panel to delve into concerns about campaign contributions, outside employment for elected officials and perceived conflict of interests. We’d like to see many changes to current practices. But to our knowledge, Connolly’s contributions and outside employment do not violate any rules or laws, and certainly do not differ from standard practice among candidates and public officials — both Republicans and Democrats — in the county. We must decide, however, if we aspire to a higher standard.
FOUR YEARS AGO, the Connection Newspapers endorsed Mychele Brickner for School Board. She has had an important voice on the board, making significant contributions. But Brickner has not established herself as a leader, and has been part of a culture of divisiveness on the School Board. She has shown that she can work towards creative solutions, but she has not demonstrated an ability to develop consensus and momentum to solve tough problems.
In particular, her tax cap pledge shows an unwise willingness to limit possible solutions to problems she hasn’t yet tackled.
Brickner still has much to contribute in the political arena, and we know we will see her in a leadership role in the future.
BRICKNER’S CAMPAIGN, unfortunately, is engaged in tactics so negative they border on toxic. A recent series of e-mails and press releases from "Friends of Mychelle Brickner" resorts to distortion, exaggeration and hyperbole in attacking Connolly. The "Gerry Connolly Unplugged" series reveals the kind of advice and guidance that would follow Brickner into office, and offers one more clear reason to choose Connolly.