For Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) a lot has changed since she first took office in 2003, both personally and professionally.
When first elected, Waters was recently married. Now, she is the mother of 20-month-old Leigh Anna, whose addition to her life has changed the way Waters looks at Loudoun County.
"I find myself looking at the details more," she said. "When you’re out pushing a stroller you are very aware of whether there are sidewalks on both sides of the street or tot lot locations."
It is the attention to small details, Waters said, that go a long way toward making Loudoun better and more family friendly. The Broad Run supervisor believes that her personal life helps her understand voters. Having started her family in the county, Waters said she can relate to the every day problems facing young families.
"We, for the most part, set the demographic for Ashburn," she said.
When her daughter was born, Waters’ in-laws moved to Loudoun to be close to their granddaughter.
"That’s why most grandparents move here," she said. "And we need to make sure Loudoun is a place where retirees can also live."
WATERS' INVOLVEMENT in politics has always been personal, stemming from when she was a teenager.
"I formed many thoughts on life and politics when I was very young in life," she said. "And those continue to be important to me."
It was her citizen activist mother that first got Waters involved in politics, taking the teenager to the capital building in Atlanta, Ga., to volunteer as a lobbyist. When Waters was 15 years old, a state senator told her she should not be lobbying since she was not old enough to vote. That negative message stayed with Waters throughout her life.
"The decisions they were making in the capital building directly affected our lives," she said. "It sparked my interest in being involved."
A CHRISTIAN, Waters said her faith has played an indirect role as a supervisor, affecting how she treats residents and others she encounters during her work.
"With a lot of the issues that we deal with at the county level, there is no absolute or partisan party belief," she said. "You need to be open-minded and listen to the community."
Board Chairman Scott York (I-At large), who worked closely with Waters in creating a sister county agreement with Main-Taunus-Kreis in Germany and found himself on the same side of many development issues, said Waters listens to all sides of an issue.
"She has really shown that she is willing to listen to the information that is given to her and really listen to the residents," he said.
Waters said she has learned that listening to all sides often means coming up with a compromise that does not always please all sides.
"But, at the end of the day, you just have to live with your position," she said.
York said that Waters looks at the merits of each individual application separately before making her decision.
"She had the guts to stand up to five individuals on the board who have pressured her to side with them 100 percent of the time," he said. "She fights for what she believes in."
WHILE EVEN Waters’ critics admit she is a hard worker, some are concerned about the direction she has taken in recent months.
"I am disappointed," School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) said. "I am concerned about the inconsistencies."
While Ohneiser strongly supported Waters during her 2003 run, walking her around his Ashburn Village neighborhood and introducing her to residents, he said he is not happy with how she has approached decisions on the school budget and development applications.
"There is a conflict between what they say they believe in and what they vote for," he said. Ohneiser said he was concerned about Waters’ votes to approve residential developments in areas that were once zoned commercial and her statement during the budget season that another $60 million could be cut from the schools budget.
"We would have to eliminate major programs," he said.
WATERS STANDS by her decisions and her belief in keeping taxes as low as possible for residents, but says she has been surprised by how passionate local politics can be.
"People are very passionate about their community," she said. "When they don’t agree it can get very nasty. I always believed that you can disagree with someone, but not be disagreeable."
Waters said she understands that the positions she has taken have caused her to be at odds with different groups of people at times, but she will continue to look at issues outside of partisan parameters.
"I believe in working across the isle," she said. "You have to."