Inaugural Speech by Chairman Sharon Bulova

Chairman Bulova addresses the audienceDuring my remarks on February 9th, 2009, I described Fairfax County in this way: 

Thank you and good evening to my colleagues, to our friends and families who are with us today, and to members of the Fairfax County workforce who have joined us in this celebration.

And this is a celebration.

Almost three years ago when I addressed you for the first time as your Chairman, it was to a backdrop of troubled and uncertain times.  The world and our nation were roiling from a breakdown in our lending and financial institutions that was unprecedented in most of our lifetimes. Fairfax County, along with all state and local governments in the U.S., was seriously affected by this downturn.

We are creative and involved.  We are problem-solvers.  We are volunteers and advocates.  It is our nature and culture to put back into our community.  I am convinced that, working together, we will come through these difficult times without sacrificing the quality that we value.

Standing here this evening I can say that is indeed the case.  There was a specific time during the past years that I knew we were going to be okay.  In fact, that we were going to be more than okay.

It was at the South County Human Services building on Richmond Highway during one of the many County Employee Brown Bag lunches organized to engage our workforce in addressing the challenges facing us. As I roved from discussion group to discussion group I heard our County employees put specific, useful and constructive ideas on the table for how we could improve on the delivery of services while also reducing the cost for providing those services. 

Many more suggestions followed as County residents participated in Community Dialogues held throughout Fairfax County in libraries and schools. These Dialogues were facilitated by County staff and well attended by members of this Board of Supervisors and the School Board.

Many of those suggestions ended up in the Lines of Business reviews our Board engaged in, as we worked with agency and department heads to identify strategies for savings and organizational efficiencies that would at the same time protect the quality of life we value. 

We also engaged our corporate neighbors by establishing an Economic Advisory Commission which identified ways to help our flagging economy get back on its feet.

Fairfax County SealWhile we cannot claim to be “out of the woods” – and understand that recovery is anticipated to take some time – Fairfax County is in an enviable position compared to other parts of the country and of our region.  The Washington Post, in an editorial on October 8th, wrote:  

Even after three years of budget cuts and plummeting revenue, Fairfax County remains the economic wunderkind of Virginia and in many ways of the Washington area. … it is poised for further growth and prosperity even as neighboring jurisdictions scramble to retrench and regroup.

Our residents and our business leaders appreciate that during these challenging times, Fairfax County has developed and improved upon a culture that is unique to us.  A business owner, who moved his IT firm to Fairfax County, when asked what prompted the move, described how he liked “the mood” here.  He wanted to be in a place where people enjoyed what they did –were as enthusiastic and ‘charged up’ about their work and about their community as he was. 

An exciting esprit de corps has been forged during these challenging times.  Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” and our Fairfax community has used these years to embrace opportunity.

Our challenge as we look ahead is to maintain and build upon that positive momentum, to move ahead with confidence.  As we work to address our community’s challenges we are on the threshold of some exciting opportunities.  In the words of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, "we mustn’t be afraid to take a big step.  You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps."

For the first time anyone can recall all 10 members of the Board of Supervisors have been re-elected.  I see this as a vote of confidence in the leadership and direction of Fairfax County.  I am committed to continuing our efforts toward fostering a strong sense of community in Fairfax County, and in maintaining the solid fiscal stewardship needed to protect and enhance the quality of life our residents’ value.

In four years I hope to look back with satisfaction at the progress we will have made toward achieving ambitious goals:

  • We will continue to make the investment needed to keep the Fairfax County Public Schools system as one of the finest in the nation.  Our Board, working in partnership with the School Board, will identify opportunities to deliver services to our constituents, children and families in ways that are holistic, supportive, cost-effective and efficient.
  • We will continue to identify creative, multimodal solutions to traffic congestion throughout Fairfax County, especially in our most traveled corridors like I-66, the Beltway, I-95/395 and Richmond Highway.
    • In particular we will ensure the timely completion of Phase 1 of Rail to Dulles, and will begin construction of Phase II.
    • To maximize the opportunities this extension of Metro presents, we will be implementing new bus service, and trail and sidewalk improvements to efficiently connect the Silver Line and the HOT Lanes to other areas of Fairfax County.
    • We will move forward with our efforts to introduce transit and light rail options in the Columbia Pike and Richmond Highway corridors.
  • We will continue to foster the business-friendly climate that has attracted every major corporate relocation in the U.S. in the last 3 years.
  • During these next four years, our Board, working with our Economic Development Authority and Visit Fairfax, will pursue new industry sectors including Translational Medicine and we will bolster our efforts to enhance economic development in other areas such as the hospitality industry and sustainability related jobs.  In particular I am excited about establishing a new conference center (or centers) in Fairfax County that will attract local and national events and boost the hospitality and tourism sectors.
  • Using the successful model of my Private Sector Energy Task Force I will bring together the stakeholders needed to ensure growth and development occur in ways that meet our transportation and environmental goals.
  • Workforce housing is a need identified by Fairfax County businesses as critical to their continued success. It is also critical to reducing congestion, protecting the environment, and improving the quality of life of our workforce.  During these next four years, we will continue to work with private sector stakeholders and advocates to make sure housing is available that is affordable for Fairfax County residents and workers.
  • Future growth and development in Fairfax County lies in Revitalization and Redevelopment of our older commercial and industrial areas.  Our goal is to manage that growth in ways that will provide “smart” transit-oriented mixed-use communities where residents and workers can easily walk to recreation, shopping and employment.

County flagFour years from now we will have new communities in place where this “life style choice” is available for our residents.  This “smart growth” development pattern also protects our stable older neighborhoods by guiding growth to the places that can best support it.

Already fifteen nominations have been received, and one approved, for rezoning under the new Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner Spring Hill Station was the first - the County’s Demonstration project – and will offer green buildings, housing units in the affordable range and an easy walk to transit, parks and open spaces.

I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to realize the vision of a new Tysons Corner.

In early February our Board will hold a two day Strategic Planning Retreat.  It will be an opportunity for members of our Board to discuss and plan for our goals and priorities during the next four years. 

Later in February our Board will be joined by the School Board in a full day Board-to-Board Planning Retreat.  I look forward to having this forum to establish a strong working relationship with our new and returning School Board Members, and the chance to discuss collaborative opportunities to best serve our children, our families, and our broader Fairfax community.

Lastly, this Board begins our four year term as we are saying goodbye to County Executive Tony Griffin.

My dad, a veteran of World War II, has always reminded me that a Marine is always a Marine.  That absolutely applies to Tony, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.  In true Marine tradition Tony has served Fairfax County with honor and integrity.  He has gained the utmost respect and appreciation from his “troops” and from his Board.

Tony has steered our County through difficult and complicated times and has done so in a quiet and unassuming way.  Happily, one of his greatest strengths has been to groom and develop talent and leadership within our workforce. Tony leaves us with a culture and leadership structure that will serve us well even as he moves on.

On behalf of all of my colleagues, our workforce, and our Fairfax County community I want to say Thank you, Tony, for a job very, very well done.

Thank you again, everyone, for joining us this evening.  My colleagues and I look forward to serving as your elected leaders during the next four years.

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