Name: Candice Bennett
Occupation: Owner of a strategic marketing and research firm
Community involvements: A past president of the Junior League of Northern Virginia and a 2013 Leadership Fairfax graduate
Family: Married to Tom Hewitt, an Iraqi War veteran
Favorite quote: "You must do the things you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Ahead of the June 9 Democratic primary, The Gazette and Connection solicited responses from each of the candidates vying to move forward to the November election.
Q. Approximately half of the county budget is devoted to the local school system. According to the superintendent there is currently a budget gap between what is needed and what the current Board of Supervisors has transferred to them. If elected what steps will you take to deal with what the School Board says is needed to fully fund the needs of the school system?
A. As a product of public schools and the daughter of educators, I understand and appreciate the importance of maintaining FCPS’ excellent reputation. And it’s critical for the Board of Supervisors to work harder to ensure that our schools receive the funding they need.
Fairfax County is scheduled to undergo a full line of business review starting in January. I would like to work closely with our school board and the FCPS administration to undergo an additional review or audit. I expect there are not only inefficiencies we can find in county government, but potentially also within FCPS. Not to mention, there are likely activities and facilities that overlap. By identifying them and eliminating these overlaps, we should be able to free up financial and human resources that can better serve the many needs of our 180,000-plus students and 1.1 million residents.
Just as importantly, I believe that our job as supervisors is to advocate on behalf of our county to get the legislature to 1) expand Medicaid and accept federal dollars, freeing up an estimated $515 million for all of our schools statewide and 2) to stand up to Richmond and demand that they live up to their constitutional obligation to fully fund our schools. If that means suing Richmond, we may have to consider doing just that. Our schools are one of our highest priorities and we should fund them accordingly.
Q. Local property taxes are the primary source of funding for all the county’s needs. The growth of property taxes continues to rise, and is now a source of hardship for low income families and those living on a fixed income. If elected what will you do to deal with the growth of property taxes and the continued reliance on property taxes as a primary source of county government spending?
A. I believe that the county has relied on property taxes for too long, and has become complacent in doing the hard work that’s needed to really grow business community necessary to sustainably grow revenue. Our county was disproportionately affected by sequestration and the impact has been dramatic on county coffers. I had one business owner tell me after their experience of opening and running a business along Route 1, that they would never do business in Fairfax County again. It’s incumbent upon the board to improve the business environment, and reduce the friction that has occurred with the growing silos and bureaucracy of a $4B county budget. Improving the business climate increases wages for the people who live here and attracts more new businesses here to partner with those already here.
Q. The Mount Vernon District and immediately surrounding region is undergoing a variety of infrastructure pressures as it copes with the needs of a growing population, expansion of Fort Belvoir, and the most significant Route 1 road and mass transit expansion in half a century. If elected, what will your transportation priorities be and how do you propose to fund them?
A. Knowing that even the most optimistic timelines for Metro expansion put us on track for a 2040 opening for a Hybla Valley metro station, I support the widening of Route 1 and the development of a high speed rapid transit bus line that carries workers to and from the blue and yellow lines down Route 1, to Fort Belvoir and Prince William County. Another critical area is the widening of Route 1 south of the Lorton Library, a significant chokepoint in the corridor as military servicemembers and contractors who work at Fort Belvoir are traveling from points south.
Q. Meeting the needs of the low and moderate income population in the Route 1 corridor is a continuing high priority. How do you plan to finance the continuing needs of this population in light of the growing financial pressures on the county budget for all services?
A. As noted above, I support improving the business climate and reducing the reliance on property taxes, while ensuring Fairfax County’s fair share from Richmond.
Q. The fastest growing minority population in Mount Vernon is senior citizens 55 and older. What steps will you take to support the transportation, housing, and resource needs of this growing seniors population?
A. The board can support our non-profit partners such as Mt. Vernon at Home and NV Rides, by helping to get the word out. Much of the job of the supervisor is to be a strong advocate for our community … not just our government. And my background in marketing and research gives me a unique perspective on how to develop and convey those messages.
Q. Why should voters support you for Mount Vernon supervisor instead of one of the other Democratic candidates?
A. I’ve demonstrated my commitment to the community as a nearly 20-year resident of the county, my volunteer leadership in local organizations and as a local small business owner. I’ll bring fresh ideas and energy to the board, as well as the ability to bring people together to get the job done right.