Around this time next year, Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors will be preparing for a new chairman.
Who exactly that will be is up for voters to decide when they go to the polls on Nov. 5, 2019, but one candidate has already stepped up as a possibility.
Shortly after current Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova revealed in her monthly newsletter that she will not seek reelection, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay announced on Dec. 6 that he is running to succeed her.
Positioning his campaign as an advocate for unity and inclusion, McKay referenced the “One Fairfax” resolution that he and his fellow supervisors passed in July 2016 to require the county consider racial and social equity issues in all its decision-making.
“This campaign is about the future of our community,” McKay said in explaining why he has decided to run for board chairman. “In this time of hateful rhetoric and divisiveness, we need to fight for all families and communities across Fairfax County…We have a huge role as the largest county in the region to continue to embrace all people and remind ourselves that our diversity is the key to our continued success.”
Currently serving his third term on the board, McKay was first elected to represent Lee District in 2007 after serving as chief of staff to former Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman for 10 years, according to his Fairfax County biography page.
A lifelong Fairfax County resident and graduate of the Fairfax County Public Schools system, McKay received a bachelor’s degree in public administration from James Madison University and attended the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership.
McKay now chairs the Board of Supervisors’ budget and legislative committees, and he co-chairs the community revitalization and reinvestment committee with Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck.
Beyond his role on the board, McKay also serves on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Virginia Railway Express Board, and the Virginia Association of Counties board of directors.
In his campaign announcement, McKay cites environmental protections, affordable housing, public education, and job growth among the issues that will be his priorities if he becomes board chair.
Bulova and Rep. Gerry Connolly, who chaired the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors before being elected to Congress in 2008, have already endorsed McKay’s campaign. His campaign website also lists endorsements from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, several state delegates and senators, five other county supervisors, and Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid.
Bulova says McKay’s experience leading the legislative and budget committees gives her confidence in his ability to serve as board chairman after she retires.
“I think he will do a fantastic job serving as chairman of the Board of Supervisors,” Bulova said. “He’s a really smart guy. He does a fantastic job in his Lee District…He’s a known presence in Richmond on behalf of Fairfax County, and he also has been chairman of the budget committee, so he knows the county. He knows his stuff. I’m ready to pass the torch, so to speak, to Jeff.”
In the December issue of her monthly newsletter, The Bulova Byline, Bulova announced that she had decided to retire from county government after discussing her options with family and friends over Thanksgiving.
First elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as the Braddock District supervisor in 1987, Bulova succeeded Connolly as the board’s chairman in a special election in 2009 and will enter her 10th year as the chair, and 31st year on the board, in 2019.
Citing her desire to spend more time with family and to travel more as the primary factor that convinced her now was the right time to step down from the board, Bulova points to her role establishing the VRE as chairman of the new commuter rail system’s operating board in 1988 as her proudest achievement.
As Board of Supervisors chairman, Bulova guided Fairfax County through the first phase of Metro’s Silver Line project, and she has overseen a number of reforms adopted by the Fairfax County Police Department in response to an Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission that she convened in 2015.
The Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission formed after community members criticized the county’s handling of Springfield resident John Geer’s shooting death at the hands of FCPD officer Adam Torres, who has since been fired by the department and was released from jail in 2016 after serving a year.
Among the 202 recommendations put forward in the ad hoc commission’s final report that the county has since implemented is the creation of a Diversion First initiative that allows certain individuals with mental health issues or developmental disabilities to seek treatment instead of being incarcerated if they were arrested for low-level offenses.
Fairfax County has also established a police civilian review panel that reviews citizen complaints regarding police officer misconduct or abuses of authority.
FBI veteran Richard Schott was appointed as the county’s first independent police auditor on Feb. 14, 2017 to monitor and review FCPD internal investigations of officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and use-of-force cases involving serious injury or death.
With one year remaining in her final term, Bulova says she hopes to see the Silver Line’s second phase through to completion.
Her primary regret as chairman is that Fairfax County failed to pass a meals tax in 2016, when voters rejected a referendum that would have levied a 4 percent tax on prepared foods and beverages with 70 percent of the resulting revenue going to FCPS.
“[It] would’ve given us additional revenue and would’ve taken the pressure off of the real estate tax and personal property tax,” Bulova said. “So, I’m disappointed that that didn’t happen, and I guess that’s for another day and another chairman.”
The chairman seat is not the only Board of Supervisors position where Fairfax County residents are guaranteed to see a new face after next year’s general election.
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook announced on Nov. 16 that he will not seek reelection after 10 years on the board, citing a desire to focus on other priorities in his life and disillusionment with the divisiveness of the current political environment.
Sworn in as Braddock District supervisor in 2009, Cook currently chairs the board’s public safety committee. He also serves as the board’s representative on the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Prevention, Policy, and Coordinating Council, which advises and develops policy and community response on domestic violence.
“In spite of the current environment, I remain committed to the ideal of public service and hope to remain engaged in community life,” Cook said in a statement. “I do not rule out any potential future opportunities. But today it is time for me to step back, recharge my batteries, and focus my attention elsewhere.”
Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth told her fellow board members and the public during the Board of Supervisors’ full meeting on Dec. 4 that she will retire after 15 years at the end of 2019.
A contender to replace Smyth has already emerged, as Fairfax County School Board Providence District Representative Dalia Palchik announced her intentions to run for supervisor several months ago.
"I was the first contender for the Providence District seat on the Board of Supervisors, since I registered my campaign committee in May, 2018 and publicly announced July 15th, 2018," she said.
Approaching the end of his third year as Mount Vernon’s supervisor, Storck announced on Dec. 1 that he will run for reelection, saying in a media statement that his focus will be on economic development, revitalization, affordable housing, transportation, public safety, and improving the environment.
Mason District Supervisor Penelope Gross, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith also intend to run for reelection, according to The Washington Post.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity have not made formal announcements about what they will do next year, though Herrity told the Post in November that he was considering making a bid for the chairman’s spot should Bulova retire.
Business executive Linda Sperling announced on Nov. 12 that she will seek to turn the Springfield District blue in 2019 as a Democratic challenger to Herrity.