Andrew R. Bird III says he is sick of all the attention, tired of being buttonholed in the grocery store near his Loudoun County home and quizzed aboard the commuter bus to Washington by people who ask him sarcastically what he'll do about El Salvador.
So Bird, a 36-year-old Republican and one of eight county supervisors who recently voted unanimously to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate bilateral U.S.-Soviet freeze on nuclear arms production, has vowed to introduce a motion to rescind it Monday, even though he and others expect the motion to fail.
When he voted for the resolution, Bird said he assumed it would "die a deservedly unnoticed death in the dusty archives of Loudoun County." But when news of the vote--which was taken after virtually no debate--was picked up by the news media, it promptly caused a national sensation. Activists opposing nuclear weapons transformed rural Loudoun County and its roughly 60,000 residents into symbols of a Middle America firmly opposed to nuclear proliferation.
Yet, while the resolution's author, Democratic Supervisor John Milton, was appearing on national television and receiving letters from as far away as California, Loudoun County residents going about their daily business seemed mostly confounded by the supervisors' resolution. That is, if they even knew about it.
"The biggest thing around here is the decision to cut the support prices for dairy products," says Dennis Sizemore, sales manager of the International Harvester farm equipment dealership in Purcellville. "Now, very rarely do we talk about such heavy stuff like nuclear proliferation."
"People here talk about it," says M.H. Throckmorton, owner of the Round Hill Grocery Store. "They say, 'What in the hell do the supervisors know about nuclear whatever?' Why should we be talkin' about that when we got a budget to deal with?"
Milton estimates that of the 50 letters and phone calls he has received on the issue since the Board of Supervisors adopted the resolution March 15, about 75 percent have come from outside the county. Though most of them have been in support, he says he's had some local residents tell him they weren't pleased.
"There was a joke going around after I told people that I had talked with my children before offering the resolution," he says. "People asked me, 'Did you talk with Amy?' "[a reference to President Jimmy Carter's statement that he had once consulted his daughter on the issue of nuclear war]. "But it's been nothing too hostile."
Bird's lone fellow Republican, James F. Brownell, says the original vote--which made Loudoun the second area county to adopt such a motion Montgomery County had adopted one a month earlier --was "poorly handled." But he still says he won't support Bird's motion. "I think the majority of people in Loudoun are scared to death about this nuclear thing," says Brownell, a farmer.
"I think Andy's going to be out there all alone on this one," says Democratic Supervisor Carl Henrickson.
The county's Republican leaders clearly oppose the antinuclear resolution. One week after the vote, Loudoun's Republican Committee passed its own nearly unanimous resolution calling on the board to rescind its earlier action, which the committee said gives "aid and comfort to the Soviet Union."
The county's weekly newspaper, the Loudoun Times-Mirror, published an editorial on the controversy beneath a headline that read: "Theater of the Absurd." The editorial chastised all parties, saying the board "has spent more than enough time discussing issues over which it has no control" and labeling the GOP's resolution "self-righteous" and Bird's proposal "illogical."
"This just isn't an appropriate issue for us to consider," Bird now says. He denies he was pressured by local Republican leaders. President Reagan opposes a bilateral freeze in nuclear arms. "I originally voted for this rather than to get into a great big debate on the subject . . . ," he says. "When you make a mistake you should just head-up and admit it."
Milton, who owns a public relations firm, says the resolution was based on "an awful lot of reading," news reports of similar resolutions passed at New England town meetings and "ridiculous statements . . . that nuclear war might be survivable."
Supervisor Travis L. Sample, who served as an Air Force combat pilot during the Vietnam War, said he had visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and favored the nuclear freeze.
Passage of the resolution surprised even antinuclear activists, who said they learned of Milton's resolution only after it passed. "I wish we could claim credit for it, but we can't," says James H. Ludlum, a member of the Loudoun County Citizens for Nuclear Disarmament. "We're delighted that the board acted on its own initiative."
Whatever happens to the resolution during Monday's board meeting, the resolution probably won't be a topic of conversation at The Cut Above hair salon in Leesburg. "Sorry," says owner Teresa Groves. "Never heard of it."