Twenty years in and raring to go for the next four. That's the message Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland sent to his constituents April 12 with his press release announcing his intention to seek reelection to a sixth four-year term.
"I want to continue my public service because I'm still challenged by serving the community and helping solve Mount Vernon residents' problems," Hyland said in making his announcement.
"It has been a great honor representing Mount Vernon District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for the last two decades and I want to continue the tradition of constituent service our residents expect of a responsive local leader. Citizen input and involvement in decisions which will affect them will continue to be the rule in Mount Vernon," he stated in his announcement.
"This will be my 20th year to be an elected official. It gives you an opportunity to do things for people that need help with their problems," Hyland explained during an interview after his announcement.
"Serving the people of this district for the past 20 years has been the most professionally satisfying endeavor of my life. It's been anything but dull and I wouldn't have it any other way," he said.
"We have a very involved and vocal constituency here. I encourage that. The more controversial an issue the more interesting it is. It brings people together to work toward a common solution," this native of Massachusetts and product of the New England town-meeting style of politics maintained.
"Mount Vernon District is different from any other in challenges. It has both very developed areas combined with one of the largest developing areas in Fairfax County — the Lorton area," Hyland said.
"In addition to the entire Route 1 revitalization program we now have a very large community about to be dropped into our midst as a result of BRAC (the Base Realignment and Closure Report of 2005 pertaining to Fort Belvoir). This represents a whole new set of challenges. Although, it's fun and I enjoy that, the challenges are staggering and significant," he said sitting in his office at the Mount Vernon Government Center on Parkers Lane.
BUT, THE VARIOUS incarnations of BRAC was only one of the myriad challenges Hyland saw in the months and years ahead to which he feels he can make a meaningful contribution. "We need to continue the transformation of Richmond Highway from an automobile oriented retail strip into an attractive, pedestrian friendly business center," he said.
In the last four years more than 1,500 acres of land within Mount Vernon District have been dedicated as park land, preserving almost one third of the district's total land mass. "I will continue to preserve and protect our environment over the next four years by reducing our carbon footprint and through conservation," Hyland said.
That promise is no where more defined than in the present controversy over the plot of land known as North Hills. One element of Hyland's constituency is adamant that North Hills remain as open space. Another wants it to be utilized for that loosely defined entity known as "affordable housing." Presently, neither seems willing to compromise, which is at the heart of Hyland's proposal to utilize the area for both purposes.
"There is a certain amount of angst over land use. There has been a lot of friction over North Hills. It's a challenge to get everyone to look at land use in an objective way for the common good. I encourage that," he said.
"But, the more controversial an issue the more interesting it is. It gets the adrenaline flowing. Perhaps it goes back to my old courtroom days. It's a real challenge to get people to work together," said the former courtroom attorney.
"Unfortunately, North Hills has split folks in the community. The issue of affordable and work force housing is one about which we are having a lot of dialogue. There is a dichotomy on where we were on North Hills years ago and where we are today," he said.
"We need to look at the definition of work force housing and affordable housing. Once those definitions are clearly established
then we have to look at how the one cent tax set aside for affordable housing is best invested," Hyland said.
"But, I am very proud that the Mount Vernon Council formed a specific committee to look at this issue. We can't expect those that work here to live 30 or 40 miles away because they can't afford to live here. That helps no one — not traffic congestion, not the environment, not anyone," he said.
"The Planning and Zoning Committee of the Council voted
overwhelmingly to support my compromise proposal for North Hills to serve both the affordable housing issue and open space and I support that," Hyland said.
"The people of Mount Vernon District are not shy. They will let you know what they think on all sides of any issue. And, that is the way it should be. The people respond to that and so do I," he said.
Another of Hyland's remaining challenges is schools — more particularly the Laurel Hill Middle School which he sees as being exacerbated by the BRAC situation. "The Board of Supervisors and the School Board need to address the overcrowding in schools, especially in the southern part of the District and accelerate the construction of the Laurel Hill Middle School," Hyland said.
"I've got significant issues that need to be finished," he said in explaining his desire to seek reelection. Among those he cited: Strengthening regulations on infill development; the increasing needs of an ever growing senior population, particularly helping them to stay in their homes; putting permanent flood protection measures in place; and bringing to fruition the Museum of the U.S. Army, to mention only a few.
A retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and attorney, Hyland is chairman of the Revitalization Policy Committee; National Association of Counties Board Member; Fairfax County Representative and past president, Virginia Association of Counties; member and Past Chairman, Chesapeake Bay Local Government Advisory Committee; former member, Board of Zoning Appeals; and Past President, United Community Ministries.