After more than a year of work, engagement, development and refinement, County Executive Bryan Hill presented the first ever countywide strategic plan to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 25. The proposed plan:
Sets a clear, unified, community-driven vision for the next 10-20 years.
Aligns and integrates existing issue- and department-specific plans.
Provides a tool for focusing and prioritizing initiatives over the next 3-5 years.
Aims to communicate progress on achieving measureable outcomes to all stakeholders.
NOTE: The content presented below is a proposed plan. This plan is subject to change following community feedback and direction from the Board of Supervisors.
Note from County Executive Bryan Hill
Fairfax County is a remarkable place to live, work, play and learn. Over the last 30+ years, countless people have contributed to the sense of home and place we experience today.
As we acknowledge our past and current successes, we must focus on the future and what we aspire to become as a community over the next 30+ years.
The following communication will showcase our team’s dedicated support for the process that has culminated in our proposed countywide strategic plan. This plan represents a future featuring nine priority areas, detailed strategies, indicators to show progress and specific metrics to track success. These nine priority areas are the central themes for seven guiding principles that will allow for our plan to be successful.
Our One Fairfax Equity Policy guided the development of this plan, while the plan is also infused with cross-cutting themes of access, affordability, sustainability, innovation, collaboration/engagement and placemaking. We’ve partnered closely with Fairfax County Public Schools as we create a sense of place for all. There must be a renewed focus on communication, collaboration, as well as innovation, to ensure success for the future of Fairfax County.
Our draft plan has already touched many people and areas throughout our vast county. For more than a year, we’ve invited residents, employees and stakeholders to help us shape the future together. I now present this plan to the Board of Supervisors and the community for more discussion and dialogue. We hope to implement this plan once refined and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.
Numerous people have asked – why do we need this plan? The answer is simple. The strategic plan will align existing government and community plans to drive outcomes and successes, while focusing our resources in a systematic fashion over the next 5, 10, 30 years and beyond.
This milestone of presenting Fairfax County’s first-ever countywide strategic plan does not mark the end of the process. In fact, it signifies the beginning of a new era, a new way to work, a new way to collaborate and a new way to think as we strive for efficient and effective service delivery. The strategic plan will be an ongoing process that prioritizes government planning and helps all community decision-makers and residents understand where we’re going together, how we are going to get there and what we plan to achieve. This proposed plan also will lead to other related work, such as reviewing the county’s Capital Improvement Program to ensure we are aligning large facility and infrastructure investments with desired outcomes.
For our community, I invite you to see yourself in this plan, provide feedback now and through the years, and track success (or where we’re falling short). This is a community plan, not just a government plan; it is a plan for all.
For our employees, you will be challenged to collaborate in new ways and think differently about addressing community issues. We need to move out of our departmental silos and instead work collectively to move the needle on indicators and implement strategies. The challenge is in front of us, the world has changed, we can no longer rest on our laurels.
For our Board of Supervisors, I’m excited to present this document to you, look forward to hearing your feedback and working with you to build upon previous successes for an even stronger future. Your insight and help developing our future priorities and goals will be key as we position ourselves financially to ensure greater successes as we “Shape the Future Together”.
As I close this note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the nine strategy teams that worked for nearly nine months drafting this plan. Your hard work, dedication and commitment to collaboration are noteworthy as a new way to work and deliver results to the community. Working together is a commitment we all should undertake. Without critics we never have success. I implore all to foster continued collaboration and continued flexibility in thinking, and most importantly, to be bold and think big as we move our county into the future.
On behalf of my Strategic Plan Steering Committee,
County Executive’s Strategic Plan Steering Committee
- Bryan Hill, County Executive
- Karla Bruce, Chief Equity Officer
- Tisha Deeghan, Deputy County Executive
- Rachel Flynn, Deputy County Executive
- Joseph Mondoro, Chief Financial Officer
- Dave Rohrer, Deputy County Executive
- Marty Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Fairfax County Public Schools
In January 2019, Fairfax County embarked on an effort to develop its first Countywide Strategic Plan. At the heart of the effort was the realization that Fairfax County needs to evolve and find new and innovative ways to serve the community. While the county overall enjoys enviable national rankings in median income and school performance, as well as low crime rates and great parks, there are challenges that need to be addressed. Opportunity varies depending on who you are and where you live in the county, and there is a widening gap between those at the highest rungs of the economic ladder and those who struggle to get by; traffic congestion challenges the region’s economic and social vibrancy; higher rents and housing, taxes and other living costs threaten the ability for many to live here; and increased growth and urbanization strain our natural resources and built infrastructure.
The intent of this strategic plan is to define a vision for our community, to prioritize the actions to address the most critical challenges and to move us toward that vision.
The following goals guided the strategic planning work:
And the following principles were followed:
One of the key principles was to create a plan focused on community-defined outcomes, so two rounds of community feedback were held. More than 16,000 people participated in our first round of engagement in spring 2019 either through in-person meetings or a countywide survey. Consistent with the One Fairfax racial and social equity policy, a focused effort was made to hear from all voices by engaging historically underrepresented segments of the community and to integrate the principles of equity throughout the plan. During engagement sessions, the community answered five questions:
- What are the greatest challenges facing Fairfax County in the next 10 years?
- What headlines do you want to read about Fairfax County in 10 years?
- What does county government do well?
- In what areas does county government need to improve?
- What actions would you prioritize over the next three to five years?
Based on this community input, nine priority areas were identified:
- Cultural and Recreational Opportunities
- Economic Opportunity
- Effective and Efficient Government
- Empowerment and Support for Residents Facing Vulnerability
- Health and Environment
- Housing and Neighborhood Livability
- Lifelong Education and Learning
- Mobility and Transportation
- Safety and Security
The teams for each of the nine priority areas embarked on extensive research to review existing planning documents, previous community input, relevant scholarly work and the latest trends, and to benchmark the work of other communities. The teams also conducted additional targeted outreach to stakeholders and service provider partners to gain additional insight. In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools was a key partner and participant in developing the plan. Once the research was completed and draft strategies were developed, another round of community engagement was conducted in the fall of 2019. This draft plan represents a culmination of the work by the teams with input from the community.
Efforts are now underway to lay the groundwork for implementation following Board of Supervisors’ adoption. Future budgets and work by county staff will align with the priorities in this plan. Performance management systems will also be aligned to show the community how the needle is moving on desired outcomes and to hold county government accountable for results.
Alignment with One Fairfax Equity Policy
While the county is a great place to live, learn, work and play, persistent racial and social inequities and disparities in outcomes exist. To confront these realities, the county has embraced a vision of One Fairfax: the belief that ALL residents deserve an opportunity to succeed. The county has committed to considering equity as we create and implement county policy and practice – to intentionally, comprehensively and systemically identify and address barriers to and gaps in opportunity.
The research and outreach conducted for the Countywide Strategic Plan has shown the complex and interconnected web of systems such as housing, education, transportation, employment, health and other factors that can significantly shape an individual’s or family’s potential for life success. We are gaining a better understanding of how these opportunities vary depending on who you are and where you live in the county. As we plan for the county’s success, we must prioritize building the productive capacities of all neighborhoods and residents, bolstering their connection to the county’s assets and resources and facilitating their full participation in and contribution to the county’s economic and social vitality and readiness for the future.
Creating Communities of Opportunity
As the strategic plan is implemented, we will strive to transform islands of disadvantage – areas where residents face economic, educational, health, housing, and other challenges – into communities of opportunity by:
Use analytical tools to better understand and represent the dynamics of opportunity and vulnerability within the county.
Facilitate the development of targeted, strategic interventions in low-opportunity areas to cultivate critical opportunity structures for residents.
Affirmatively connect low-income and otherwise marginalized individuals and families to existing opportunity.
Sustain our strong economy while expanding opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity, especially for those facing the greatest barriers to advancing their well-being.
Fairfax County will be guided by the following set of overarching themes to help achieve the nine priority area outcomes outlined in this strategic plan. They will influence how the county makes decisions, sets policies, allocates resources, implements strategies and measures results.
Fairfax County provides a wide variety of high-quality programs and services for our community. However, many residents face barriers — physical, economic, language-based, time-of-day and others — that prevent them from easily accessing these offerings. As the county moves forward implementing this strategic plan, it will incorporate the perspectives of those who face those barriers in designing solutions to address them. In this way, more members of the community are able to take advantage of the opportunities offered.
The cost of living in the community will likely continue to rise. In the face of this challenge, Fairfax County will work to ensure that everyone in the county can afford to meet their most fundamental needs, such as housing, food, transportation, utilities and childcare. This will involve setting strategies and implementing policies that help keep the costs of those necessities — as well as the tax burden we place on individuals and businesses — reasonable. In addition, Fairfax County will pursue initiatives and programs that expand opportunities for individuals and families to increase their income and wealth so that they can remain here and thrive.
The challenges and opportunities facing Fairfax County cannot and will not be solved by county government alone. The creativity, diversity and energy of our residents, businesses and community organizations will need to be harnessed if we are all to achieve success on the nine outcomes outlined in this plan. To accomplish this, the county will need to proactively create opportunities for collaboration and engagement that are inclusive, accessible and authentic — convening these partnerships in ways that enable a wide range of views and voices to be heard and that represent the diversity of all communities.
The world is changing rapidly in a multitude of ways, and the residents and businesses of Fairfax County expect their county government to keep pace and deliver on their desired outcomes. This will require the county to embrace new ways of working, new technologies and new partnerships. Fairfax County will need to let go of comfortable, status quo approaches and seek new insights about what it will take to make performance even better. As the county pursues more innovative practices, it will need to become more agile and adaptive — constantly refining programs to acquire and process new information. To be as effective as possible, Fairfax County will need to be open to opportunities for learning and growth, and then adapt approaches accordingly.
Fairfax County is a steward of the community’s resources, whether these are the funds provided through taxes and fees to deliver needed services, the natural environment everyone relies on to live or the human talent that works each day to serve the community. It is imperative for Fairfax County to manage those resources in ways that maximize their long-term health and sustainability, even as it acts to address the real-time, urgent needs of today. This means considering the impacts of our policies on future generations of residents, taxpayers and employees, and intentionally incorporating those insights into decisions.
The natural and built environments are foundational to a community’s quality of life. Where people live is a major determinant in the opportunities they will experience. Does the area in which they live provide access to basic needs – affordable housing, healthcare, safety and security, employment, transportation, education? Does the area also provide diverse cultural/recreational opportunities that enrich their lives such as the arts, beautiful parks and social connection? Are these opportunities equitably shared?
Placemaking is about creating environments where people can thrive; where people want to be; and where businesses want to locate and grow. Placemaking recognizes that all areas have not historically experienced the same level of opportunity, and different levels of investment are needed. Placemaking strategies cut across all the priority areas in this plan and will require a thoughtful approach to how the multiple goals in this plan intersect.
Creating great places will require integrating land use planning with transportation choices and providing access to community amenities in a healthy, secure and environmentally sustainable manner. Placemaking is also about providing choices – protecting and preserving the fabric of existing neighborhoods and building new vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian friendly urban centers that celebrate our cultural diversity. As implementation of the plan is advanced, specific attention will be focused on placemaking and integrating strategies across the nine priority areas.
Inside the Process
The process to develop this plan began in January 2019. It featured many phases.
Extensive community feedback and stakeholder engagement in the spring and fall of 2019 helped shape the plan, including:
- 1,674 in-person meeting participants
- 17,355 survey responses
- Intentional outreach to underrepresented communities
- Feedback from Boards, Authorities and Commissions, as well as the business community
Following additional community feedback this spring, the Board of Supervisors will adopt the fiscal year 2021 budget and a final version of this strategic plan. Staff will then initiate efforts to implement the Board-identified priorities of the strategic plan (not all strategies and indicators will be started at the same time). Specific workplans will be established with defined deliverables and targets to measure progress. Regular updates will be provided to the Board and community. Community and stakeholder engagement will continue to be a core focus of our efforts. Each successive fiscal year budget will link to the strategic plan and the identification of prior year accomplishments, along with goals and targets for the coming year.
The strategic planning process will integrate many existing plans so all efforts are aligned, coordinated and in context. For your background, learn more about these plans, which range from health/human services to the environment to economic success to public schools and much more.
Nine Priority Areas
The nine priority areas outlined below provide the framework for the people and organizations
of Fairfax County to shape the future together for 2020 and beyond.
Provide Your Feedback
Community meetings will be scheduled soon to hear your feedback about the proposed strategic plan. We invite those who participated with us last year and all residents, businesses and community members to join the dialogue. Details coming soon!