We see them at just about every community event. They manage a budget larger than the budgets of four states, and rule over a county with a diverse, well-educated population of more than a million people.
The 10 members of the Fairfax County Supervisors have an intense, time-consuming, insanely detailed job, one that comes with enormous power and even more responsibilities.
They impact our lives in large and small ways, allocating money and resources in ways that can propel our community forward—or cost us our first-rate status in education, livability and culture.
Yet most of us, media included, are so focused on politics at the state and national level that we overlook the decision-makers in our own backyard.
Sharon Bulova, chairman, elected at-large
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 530
Phone: 703-324-2321, TTY 711
John C. Cook, Braddock District
Kings Park Library
9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke, VA 22015-1608
Phone: 703-425-9300, TTY 711
John W. Foust, Dranesville District
McLean Governmental Center
6649-A Old Dominion Drive, McLean, VA 22101
Phone: 703-356-0551, TTY 711
730 Elden St., Herndon, VA 20170-4637
Phone: 703-471-5076, TTY 711
Catherine M. Hudgins, Hunter Mill District
North County Governmental Center
12000 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston, VA 20190-3307
Phone: 703-478-0283, TTY 711
Jeffrey C. McKay, Lee District
Franconia Governmental Center
6121 Franconia Road, Alexandria, VA 22310-2508
Phone: 703-971-6262, TTY 711
Penelope A. Gross, vice chairman, Mason District
Mason District Governmental Center
6507 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003-2029
Phone: 703-256-7717, TTY 711
Gerald W. Hyland, Mount Vernon District
Mount Vernon Governmental Center
2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, VA 22306-2799
Phone: 703-780-7518, TTY 711
Linda Q. Smyth, Providence District
8739 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031-2198
Phone: 703-560-6946, TTY 711
Pat Herrity, Springfield District
West Springfield Governmental Center
6140 Rolling Road, Springfield, VA 22152-1579
Phone: 703-451-8873, TTY 711
Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 233
Fairfax, VA 22035-0001
Phone: 703-324-2500, TTY 711
Michael R. Frey, Sully District
Sully District Governmental Center
4900 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly, VA 20151-3808
Phone: 703-814-7100, TTY 703-814-7109
As an electorate, we put the rest of the nation to shame when we turn out in record numbers to vote in top-of-the-ticket races. But when it’s time to cast a ballot for county supervisors? We collectively shrug our shoulders, providing, at best, a 35 percent show of hands.
What do they even do at the county level that’s important enough for us to care about in the first place?
A fair question.
So we asked them to tell us, in 250 words or less. Below are their unedited responses.
What is a supervisor? How do you impact the lives of county residents and why should we care?
- Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Sharon Bulova (D-At-Large)
“Local government is where the rubber meets the road. Each year, when the Board of Supervisors approves the budget, we invest in our community’s priorities. We boast a well-educated, informed and engaged community. It is critical to have Fairfax County residents at the table when we make important decisions that affect their daily life. This year we will make significant investments in transportation, thanks to new revenue approved by the General Assembly. We need our civic leaders to let us know what transportation improvements you would like to see in and around your community. We will also make critical investments in health and human services. We need to continue making progress toward our goal of ending homelessness as we know it in Fairfax County. Our economy is slowly recovering from the recession and development will begin to pick up. We will concentrate that development in areas that can support it in order to keep growing while protecting our older, stable neighborhoods. Growing our business community is key to our success and will help keep residential taxes low. We’ve added 2,800 jobs so far this year, and we will make sure our policies allow our local business to expand and keep Fairfax County attractive to firms looking to relocate. As a resident of Fairfax County, you have a strong voice in how your government operates. I encourage you to get involved and help shape the community you live in and keep Fairfax County the best place to live, work, play and grow older comfortably.”
- Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee)
“As Lee District Supervisor, constituent service is the most important thing I do. The supervisor’s office is the first and sometimes the last resort. We hear from people who want a pothole filled and from those with human service needs. We hear from people asking if they need a permit to build a garage—and from those asking if their neighbor’s construction has a permit. We help to resolve stormwater management problems, drainage issues, parking disputes, and many other issues—from animal control to zoning.
Land use is an important part of the Lee District supervisor’s job and requires balancing the needs of property owners, neighbors, the larger community and the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On a broader scale, I work with our state and federal government to get the best outcomes for our region and our district, for example Rail to Dulles and BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which places, realigns and consolidates military installations in the DoD].
Local government is a balancing act walking on a thin tightrope. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, unlike Maryland, a Home Rule state. In Virginia, counties can only enact laws and ordinances with enabling legislation from the General Assembly. Every year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Legislative Committee (that I chair) prepares its legislative package with details of legislation that it supports or opposes. That package is presented to the General Assembly.
Public service is a 24/7 job. The rewards are in helping to shape the future of our district and our region and to making Lee District and Fairfax County a great place to live, work and raise a family.
- Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville)
“As the Dranesville District supervisor, I represent the approximately 120,000 residents of the district on the board. I work with the chairman and the other eight supervisors on county policies, programs and projects for transportation, the environment, land use, health care, human services, housing, economic development and many other services that directly impact all county residents and businesses. We also formulate and approve the annual county budget (including the amount transferred to the school system), establish local tax rates, approve or reject land use proposals, and make appointments to various authorities and commissions that serve county residents and businesses.
One of the most important responsibilities of a district supervisor and his or her staff is constituent services. My staff and I assist Dranesville residents on issues that involve the county government, utilities and state government (especially VDOT). We regularly work with constituents on issues involving building and zoning code enforcement, traffic calming, storm water, human services, utility complaints, storm recovery and road and sidewalk maintenance.
Why is it important to vote in a county supervisor election? No level of government has more impact on our daily lives and the type of community we live in and will leave for our children. Residents should participate in the election process to ensure that they have a supervisor who shares their values, who will be effective on their behalf, and who actively solicits their input on major issues that affect their community.”
- Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully)
“The Board of Supervisors doesn’t do war and peace, but it’s hard to argue that the Board of Supervisors is not responsible for most of the issues that people deal with every day. Whether the piece of property next door is developed for houses or a shopping center or parkland falls under the direct authority of the board. School funding, police and fire protection are the direct responsibility of the board. The county provides a host of programs and services—libraries, parks and recreation, transportation and planning, and a wide range of human services. These are areas of life that we all deal with every day and that affect the quality of life. In many instances it is this range of services that attracted people to choose to live here in the first place. It is critical that people watch the board, get involved in their local governmental processes and help shape our community. At a minimum, people should vote! If you don’t vote you can’t complain!”
- Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock)
“More than any other elected official at any level of government, a county supervisor has the greatest effect on your everyday lives.
First, I believe strong neighborhoods are the foundation of our strong county. I work with civic and homeowners’ associations, community pools, recreational leagues, scout troops and other organizations to help them provide a foundation for our neighborhoods. The county’s ‘50+’ plan is looking for communities to volunteer to be ‘villages’ where our seniors help each other so they can stay in their homes in their later years. Second, the county government provides among the best police and fire and rescue departments in the country, and we are building a more robust emergency response network that connects citizens with county agencies. We have a world-class public school system, which receives priority in the county budget. Our human service system combines government programs with faith-based and non-profit programs to help people with disabilities and people in need of a ‘pick up’ to get themselves on track. Third, we are rebuilding our infrastructure, from stormwater management systems that protect the environment, to parks and trails for recreation, to a water and sewer system that is clean and efficient.
As your supervisor, I am here to help make your neighborhood the best place it can be.
- Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield)
“I have always agreed with Thomas Jefferson’s notion that government closest to the people is best, and you cannot get much closer to the people than being a supervisor. Supervisors’ jobs are multi-faceted; we’re the ones you call when you have a problem with your taxes, neighborhood blight, roads, or if you have trouble with county or state agencies. Supervisors hire the police chief and fund the police, fire department and health department. We’re the ones who approve new commercial construction like in Tysons, or new Metro-rail and bus routes. In fact, I would go as far to say that about 80 percent of an individual’s contact with government at any level is at our level. One of the most important jobs of the supervisor is constituent service. We work hard to address and resolve issues and problems for our residents, be they simple or complex. I also believe communication with constituents on issues that are important to them is a critical job of the supervisor—I hold town hall meetings, attend numerous events and community/HOA meetings and publish a newsletter—sign up at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/springfield/herrity-report-newsletter.htm. I look forward to serving you.
- Linda Smyth (D-Providence)
“The Board of Supervisors collectively provides local government in Fairfax County. What does that mean? Supervisors set the local tax rates and approve the county budget, which provides funding for schools, parks, libraries, public safety and other public facilities and services. In other words, what we do touches our residents’ everyday lives. And when residents have questions or problems, we are the ones they call for answers and solutions.”