Chairman Gerald E. Connolly Named President of VACo
Fairfax County Office of Public
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010
Nov. 9, 2004
Fairfax County Chairman Gerald E. Connolly
Named President of VACo
Declaring the need for local autonomy in his inaugural speech, Fairfax County Chairman Gerald E. Connolly assumed the presidency of the Virginia Association of Counties today.
Because local governments are on the front lines of today’s challenges, like terrorism, Connolly called for an end to the Dillon Rule, so localities can chart their own course.
“The time has come for a new compact between the state and local governments in Virginia — a compact that delineates where the state’s responsibilities end and ours begin,” Connolly said in his remarks. “We need a compact that loosens the fiscal reins on local government and provides us the requisite tools with which to finance essential services and the autonomy with which to make decisions that are appropriate to our respective communities. The era in which Richmond knows best is over.”
VACo is an association of 95 local governments. The group plays a critical role in lobbying the General Assembly on regional issues like education and transportation funding and is especially important because the state limits localities’ powers through the Dillon Rule.
“VACo is the face and the voice of local government in Virginia,” said Connolly, who leads a county of more than 1 million residents. “That voice will be most effective when we can speak from common cause. From Fairfax to Hampton Roads to Roanoke, the counties of Virginia have more in common than not.”
Fairfax County faces the same regional challenges as the smallest town in the state, and VACo allows localities to speak with one voice and achieve a common purpose, Connolly said.
He cited the role the group played last year in advancing education
funding, emphasizing that as president he will work to make sure the
legislature doesn’t roll back that progress. Transportation funding is
another issue where counties must work together.
Conceived in the depths of the Great Depression, when acting separately meant failing alone, VACo sprang from an initiative of the counties themselves. Meeting on Sept. 12, 1930, less than a year after the stock market crash, the boards of six southwest counties, Montgomery, Roanoke, Smyth, Pulaski, Giles and Craig, proclaimed the need for joint action, “for the purpose of improving county government and promoting the general welfare of the people.” By 1934, 24 counties had joined the organization.
Today, VACo continues to support county officials, to promote the interests of counties, and to better serve the people of Virginia. The association is governed by a board of directors made up of government officials representing 95 local governments.
VACo’s legislative steering committee monitors state and national legislative activities for changes affecting local governments. The committee also recommends an annual legislative program, which is adopted at the annual conference.
The inaugural ceremony took place at VACo’s 70th annual conference in Bath County, Va. Connolly has served as president-elect for the last two years.
As chairman of ten members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Connolly oversees a budget of $4.5 billion and a county that, based on size, would make it the nation’s 13th largest city, 12th largest school district and 6th largest office market. Connolly is coming to the end of his first year as chairman.
On the board, he serves as the chairman of the county’s Legislative Committee and is vice chair of the Economic Advisory Committee. He is also a member on the boards of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments where he is past chairman and has served as a key member of the region’s Emergency Preparedness Taskforce.
Connolly’s innovative leadership has won recognition from groups across the county and the region. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments awarded Connolly the Scull Award —the region’s highest award for leadership — for his work on promoting telework and telecommuting throughout the Washington, DC region. In 2002, he received an environmental achievement award from the Hunter Mill Defense League, and Fairfax Trails and Streams lauded him with an award for his role as “father” of the 38-mile-long Cross-County Trail. He also has been recognized by the Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations for his authorship of the county’s Value Engineering Program that has saved taxpayers millions of dollars and by the Fairfax Firefighters for his role in improving public safety.
For more information, call the Chairman’s office at 703-324-2321, TTY 703-324-2319, or call VACo at 804-788-6652, TTY 711.