Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

After many years of declining turnout in what is termed an “off-off year” election, last week’s results were stunning, as thousands more people voted in local elections than in previous years. In Mason District, overall turnout was 41.7 percent. The top four precincts in turnout were Barcroft, at 60.9 percent; Camelot, at 56.8 percent, Ridgelea, at 55.5 percent, and Belvedere, at 55.3 percent. Total number of votes cast was about a third higher than in previous local elections. For comparison, in 2007, total votes cast in the supervisor race were 16,119; in 2011, total votes were 15,872; in 2015, total votes were 16,061. This year, total votes cast in the supervisor race were 25,636. Absentee votes cast were 2,794, nearly 11 percent of the total vote. Many of the absentee votes were cast in-person. The satellite polling site at the Mason District Governmental Center was steady every day, with nearly 400 voting on the last Saturday. That’s about one voter per minute!

Across the Commonwealth, there were 403 supervisor seats up for election. There were 297 incumbents who sought re-election; open seats (no incumbent running) were 106. When all the votes were tallied, 249 incumbents won; 48 incumbents lost. That means there will be 154 new supervisors taking office on Jan. 1, including Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill District), Rodney Lusk (Lee District), Dalia Palchik (Providence District), and James Walkinshaw (Braddock District) in Fairfax County. Party affiliations of winners across the Commonwealth were 194 independents (many candidates run without a party affiliation), 148 Republicans, and 60 Democrats.

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All supervisors, new and returning, are subject to the Virginia Conflict of Interest Act, which outlines prohibited conduct and personal interests, gifts, and travel, among other things. Training is required at the time they take office and every two years thereafter. Supervisors also must file an annual Statement of Economic Interests with their county clerk, which is separate from the requirement to file campaign finance reports with the Virginia State Board of Elections. Those reports are open for public inspection.

In Fairfax County, the School Bond referendum passed easily, with more than 77 percent of voters in favor. Bond questions in Loudoun County, Prince William County, and Stafford County all passed. Halifax County voters approved a ballot question allowing the county to levy a one percent retail sales tax for school capital projects, expiring in 2051. Four counties had meals tax (4 percent) referenda on the ballot; only Patrick County approved the referendum; Charlotte, Shenandoah and Sussex counties failed.

Campaigning is fun; governance is hard. That’s the task facing newly elected and returning supervisors. Local elected officials make more decisions affecting everyday life than state or federal officials, and local officials are more easily accessible. Voters can meet them in the grocery store or running errands, at community events, and even in the dentist’s chair! Resolving local issues, providing needed public services, allocating tax dollars prudently, and a myriad of other responsibilities make the job challenging, exciting, satisfying and, sometimes, frustrating. It is an honor and a privilege to be elected to serve in local office, and I treasure the trust placed in me by Mason District voters and residents. Thank you.

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