Joe Galdo has lived a quarter of a mile from Rutherford Park for 37 years, but he has never been able to walk there.
The Republican nominee for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman moved to Fairfax County from Charlottesville in 1982 after accepting a job with the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he and his wife were thrilled about their new house’s proximity to the modest park, thinking it would be a good place to take their oldest son, who has a learning disability.
However, they quickly realized that it would be impossible to safely walk to Rutherford Park, because the stretch of Guinea Road leading from their house to the park has no sidewalk.
When he reached out to the county about putting in a sidewalk, Galdo was told the section of Guinea Road in question was part of a larger project to widen the street from two to four lanes between the park and Braddock Road.
Almost 40 years later, that project has yet to get underway, as Fairfax County keeps devoting its attention and funding to other infrastructure needs deemed more urgent.
On Jan. 28, 2014, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $1.4 billion in funding for transportation project priorities over the next six years, a package that included a recommended $1 million to partially fund a study of the Guinea Road widening project.
The county estimated that the entire Guinea Road project would cost a total of $21.6 million.
Seeing his neighborhood continually overlooked in favor of major developments concentrated in areas like Tysons and Reston fueled Galdo’s belief that some parts of Fairfax County are being left behind, an impression that contributed to his decision to run for county board chair.
“There are a lot of things that are happening that don't make sense, you know, new developments the communities are up in arms against,” Galdo said. “We just need to change our priorities, get things fixed, and then move on.”
Galdo officially announced his candidacy for Board of Supervisors chairman at a Fairfax County Republican Committee meeting on Apr. 23, delivering a speech that highlighted his belief that government has become too big and his desire to control spending while reducing taxes.
Fairfax County voters will choose between Galdo and Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, who won the Democratic nomination in the June 11 primary, on Nov. 5.
Galdo was not always a supporter of the Republican Party. In fact, until recently, he considered himself closer to the Democrats.
After finishing his federal government career, which included stints with private contractors and the Department of Energy along with his Defense Department work, Galdo ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in 2012 and again in 2014, seeking to represent Virginia’s 11th District in the House of Representatives.
Galdo opted to run for the Green Party partly because he was, in his words, “intimidated” by the prospect of running with either of the major parties, and partly due to his background working with renewable energy as a program manager and deputy assistant secretary staffer for the U.S. Department of Energy.
While in the DOE, Galdo worked with the energy industry through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to develop a standard for connecting small-scale generation devices like solar panels to utility distribution systems, a move that he says paved the way for states to adopt net-metering laws.
Given that background, the Green Party seemed like a natural fit for Galdo when he decided to run for Congress out of opposition to Rep. Gerry Connolly, who he felt was not “voting the right way on a lot of issues.”
Galdo still considered himself more of a Democrat when he left the Green Party after losing both elections to Connolly, but he had become increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party since the Clinton administration, which he believes “abandoned” middle-class and blue-collar workers.
Galdo apparently found those frustrations reflected by President Donald Trump’s campaign, because he signed up to volunteer for the Republican Party for the first time right after the 2016 presidential election.
Galdo officially joined the Fairfax County Republican Committee in April when he decided to run for chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
“I think the Democrats in Fairfax County are going in the wrong direction, and I want to change that,” Galdo said. “There was an opportunity for me to engage with the Republican Party, and that’s what I did. Once you’re inside, the Republicans are not the demons that the media and everyone else makes them out to be…In general, they're much more personable people.”
If elected to the Board of Supervisors, Galdo says that his top priorities will be to reevaluate how county funds are allocated based on which policies and programs work most effectively and to create more transparency around county operations.
“If voters and the communities don’t know what’s going on, then they don’t have a voice in what's happening until it's too late, and that's where a lot of complaints are,” Galdo said. “By the time residents get involved in a process, the county has already decided what to do, and it’s just a matter of pushing back, rather than helping to solve the problem.”
Among Galdo’s foremost concerns is the pace of development in some parts of Fairfax County. He believes high-density development in particular needs to be slowed down and infrastructure should be a priority for funding to ensure the county can accommodate any anticipated growth.
The lack of housing affordability and headache-inducing traffic congestion that worries Galdo could potentially be exacerbated by Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington County.
The technology giant’s impending arrival is expected to have a regional impact. The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis reported in June that Fairfax County housing prices are projected to jump 7 percent by the end of 2019.
Galdo says that, if it were up to him, Fairfax County would have nothing to do with Amazon, arguing that the county’s current approach to economic development is destined to widen the wealth gap and make living in the county unaffordable for many workers.
“Every county employee, whether it’s a police officer, firefighter, a teacher, should be able to afford to live in the county that they work in,” Galdo said. “They don’t now, and that’s a problem.”