Transportation, revitalization and redevelopment, budget, and community engagement were among the common themes identified during Day One of the two-day Fairfax County Board of Supervisors retreat at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.
Each member of the Board spent about 15 minutes discussing priorities and issues in individual magisterial districts and, not surprisingly, many items were not unique to a single district. As Fairfax County builds out to its boundaries, affordable housing, diversity, services for an aging population, schools, parks, and county workforce become countywide issues of interest and concern. From the first day’s conversations, it was apparent that the Board’s priorities, established at the beginning of the last term, have withstood the test of time.
One item that will be subject to further discussion over time is economic: how to position Fairfax County for continued success as an employment center in the face of federal cutbacks on services and contracting that have made the area so attractive to entrepreneurs and job-seekers. The solution(s) will have to be long-term, well-reasoned, and subject to a good deal of patience. As County Executive Tony Griffin pointed out in his presentation at the retreat, the reality is that we are making progress, but it will take some patience to achieve all that we want to achieve.
Maintaining the county’s triple-A bond rating is important to making more progress in the future, but some sobering information at the retreat was a credit rating discussion by JoAnne Carter, managing director of The PFM Group. The county’s excellent bond rating has saved county taxpayers more than half-a-billion dollars in interest rates since the mid-1970s, and our demographics, financial condition, debt structure, and fiscal management are rated as strong by the bond houses. Nonetheless, our geographical position (along with at least eight other jurisdictions in the region) near the nation’s capital, with its red-hot focus on global politics, can work against us, according to the experts. Not exactly fair, perhaps, but a fact to be considered, nonetheless. Like any reputation, establishing a good one takes a lot of effort, but keeping it takes even more. Board members agreed that Fairfax County is the benchmark in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country, and we want to keep it that way!
Ensuring that Fairfax County is a good place for a career was a retreat subject, but one needs to look no farther than Master Police Officer Annie Mack-Evans for an example of a good career county employee. Officer Mack-Evans retired from the Fairfax County Police Department last week after 28 years of steadfast service. She is the first African-American female police officer to retire from the department. Fairfax County was a much different place in 1984, when Officer Mack-Evans selected a very non-traditional career for women, and blazed a trail for other young officers to follow. Her duties include patrol in Mason District, school resource officer, teaching at the Criminal Justice Academy, and recruiter in personnel. A salute for Master Police Officer Annie Mack-Evans for a lifetime of work to maintain a safe community and improve the quality of life for all residents!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]