NO LOCAL elected official in the District, nor any nearby suburban jurisdiction, has nearly as many constituents as Sharon S. Bulova , the unassuming chairman of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors. Ms. Bulova, a Democrat who has served on the board since 1988 and as its chairman since 2009, is low-key and, for a politician who leads a locality of 1.1 million people, strikingly self-effacing. It’s almost impossible to imagine her attended by that commonplace accessory of high office in these parts: an entourage.
She is also highly effective. Having taken over the top job just as the Great Recession, and then sequestration, dealt Fairfax a double blow, she has ably led the county through a succession of fraught budget negotiations driven by soaring spending demands from a public school system struggling to maintain its excellence. Largely owing to Ms. Bulova’s insistent civility, deficits have been closed with a relative minimum of rancor.
It is a testament to her political agility that she faces only token opposition this year as she runs for reelection to a second full term as board chairman. The other candidates in the race for board chairman — Republican Arthur G. Purves and Independent Green candidate Glenda G. Parker — are rivals in name only. Neither has the experience or skills to lead Virginia’s largest local government nor the funds to mount a serious campaign for public office.
We endorse Ms. Bulova. Even if she faced more substantive challengers, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which we would not support her, especially given her recent performance and the high regard in which she is held by constituents as well as her colleagues on the county board.
She has proved herself especially adept in the past year, which was a challenging one. In one instance, she responded to the unwarranted police shooting of an unarmed man, John Geer, in 2013, by establishing a broad-based commission to overhaul police policies and practices. The commission’s report, delivered this week, calls for important reforms in the police department’s policies on the use of force and release of information to the public, as well as the establishment of a civilian review panel.
In another instance, involving the death of a mentally ill inmate, Natasha McKenna, who was shot four times with a Taser by sheriff’s deputies in a struggle at the county jail, Ms. Bulova has spearheaded an initiative to channel more defendants suffering from mental illness away from jail and into appropriate treatment. That effort is a work in progress, but no one is underestimating Ms. Bulova’s resolve.
In both cases, she exhibited a deft touch for de-escalation, a knack for channeling community anger into constructive action, and a thick political skin.
Those traits will be in high demand in the coming years as budget pressures intensify in Fairfax, and as the county board butts heads with a strong-willed schools superintendent, Karen Garza, who is waging a campaign for higher school spending to increase teachers’ salaries and meet the demands of a growing and increasingly diverse student population.
Ms. Bulova deserves four more years as chairman.