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. A magnet for government contractors and other major corporations, it is poised for further growth and prosperity even as neighboring jurisdictions scramble to retrench and regroup.
Despite that, the county faces serious challenges — transforming Tysons Corner, already one of the nation’s premier concentrations of office space, into something more closely resembling a city; revitalizing older areas such as the Route 1 corridor; providing services and shelter for the poor amid a landscape of plenty; and living with real estate values unaffordable for many.
One major reason for the county’s success — besides its proximity to the federal government — has been a long record of scandal-free, nonpartisan, good government. In contrast to some of its suburban rivals, Fairfax has sensibly balanced responsible policies on growth, spending and taxes.
That balancing act has been struck by the county’s Board of Supervisors, which has the dubious distinction of being one of the lowest-paid local governing bodies in the region. Fairfax supervisors make $75,000 a year and will see no raise until 2016 at the earliest.
Poor pay notwithstanding, smart, honest and well-qualified candidates continue to run for the board.
In a previous editorial, we offered an endorsement of the board chairman, Sharon S. Bulova, a savvy, conscientious consensus-builder who’s running for reelection countywide. The following candidates, denoted in bold type, are our picks in the six contested races for individual district seats on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Braddock District. John C. Cook, the incumbent who won a special election in 2009 to replace Ms. Bulova when she became chairman, is the first Republican to represent this district in many years. Mr. Cook is knowledgable, able and diligent and pays close attention to constituent services. There’s no question that he is a stronger candidate than his lackluster Democratic challenger, Janet S. Oleszek, a former county School Board member, and an independent, Carey C. Campbell.
Mr. Cook’s downside is that has too often dabbled in partisan posturing on a board that has been blessedly free of it for years, for the most part. A recent example was his vote against this year’s budget, based on a manufactured dispute over half a penny on the property tax — $20 a year for the average homeowner. Provided he avoids a repetition of such gratuitous antics, which serve only to antagonize his colleagues, Mr. Cook has the makings of a fine supervisor.
Dranesville District. John W. Foust, a Democrat completing his first term, was a longtime civic activist before he was elected, and he has been an excellent addition to the board. He has pushed for ways to complete Metro’s extension to Dulles International Airport and to invest in reinventing Tysons. Both are critical to adding jobs and economic vitality to the county and the region.
By contrast, the Republican candidate, Dennis D. Husch, gives every indication that he would impede both projects. He hints that the county and the schools have squandered money, but he offers no examples. A provocative partisan who once picketed an event attended by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), Mr. Husch at times was a divisive force during 16 years on the Herndon Town Council. He’d be the wrong choice for the district, and for the county.
Mason District. In her 16 years as a supervisor, Penelope A. “Penny” Gross has been a substantive, sensible steward of the transformation of this exceptionally diverse district, whose minority population is approaching 50 percent. In addition to promoting intercommunal dialogue, Ms. Gross has also been a champion of environmental causes, having successfully pushed to dedicate some $30 million a year to improve the county’s stormwater management, which pays direct dividends in a healthier Chesapeake Bay. She deserves reelection. Her Republican opponent, M. David Feld, is a well-meaning community activist who lacks Ms. Gross’s breadth of experience and grounding in county issues.
Mount Vernon District. Gerald W. Hyland, a fixture on the county board after 24 years in office, is solid, grounded and politically unassailable. A Democrat, he faces only nominal opposition from G. Gail Parker, an independent who mounts perennial campaigns — this is at least her sixth, for various elective offices — to draw attention to her pet cause: building more rail lines.
Providence District. Linda Q. Smyth, who was first elected to the board in 2003, is a fastidious, detail-oriented, nose-to-the-grindstone public servant, long on the substance of public policy if slightly short on rhetorical flash and sizzle. As the representative for the district that includes much of Tysons, the Democrat will play a key role in redeveloping an area that amounts to Fairfax’s downtown.
By contrast, her Republican opponent, Chris S. Grisafe, lacks any experience or qualification for the job. Mr. Grisafe’s grasp of policy and politics is so tissue-thin that he doesn’t even mention the word “Tysons” on his campaign Web site; that alone should disqualify him.
Sully District. Michael R. Frey, the Republican incumbent, has been a sane, steady presence on the board for 20 years. He’s taken care to mitigate the county’s budget cuts in his district, and his collegial style acts as a balm with his colleagues. He’s an easy choice compared with the Democratic candidate, Shahid S. Malik, a small businessman who is unversed in county affairs.